What Are the Side Effects of Semaglutide Injections?

Semaglutide is a relatively new medication that has been gaining popularity for its ability to help manage diabetes and promote weight loss. It works by mimicking the hormone GLP-1, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. While semaglutide has proven effective for many, like any medication, it does come with potential side effects. In this article, we’ll explore what you need to know about the possible side effects of semaglutide injections.

What is Semaglutide?

Semaglutide is in a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. It helps lower blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes by stimulating the release of insulin when blood sugar is high. It also suppresses appetite and slows digestion, which can lead to weight loss. Semaglutide is injected under the skin, typically once weekly. The brand names for semaglutide injections are Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Wegovy.

The Chemistry of Semaglutide

The active ingredient in semaglutide is a compound called semaglutide peptide. It has a similar chemical structure to the hormone GLP-1. GLP-1 is short for glucagon-like peptide-1, which is produced in the body naturally. Semaglutide is considered a GLP-1 analog because it closely mimics the effects of naturally occurring GLP-1 in the body. However, semaglutide has been chemically modified to be more potent and have a longer duration of action than native GLP-1.

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Uses of Semaglutide

Semaglutide has two primary uses that have made it an increasingly popular medication in recent years: as an adjunct treatment for type 2 diabetes and as a weight management drug.

For Type 2 Diabetes

Semaglutide is approved as an add-on treatment for improving blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a condition characterized by insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency. This means the body doesn’t use insulin efficiently to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy. As a result, blood sugar levels rise.

Over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar can lead to serious complications like nerve damage, kidney disease, vision loss, and heart disease. Treatment involves lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and weight loss as well as medications to help regulate blood glucose.

Semaglutide is commonly prescribed in addition to first-line medications for T2D like metformin. Clinical trials have shown it is effective at lowering HbA1c, a marker of long-term blood sugar management.

It does this through several mechanisms of action. It stimulates the release of insulin from pancreatic beta cells when blood glucose is elevated. It also decreases the secretion of glucagon, another hormone that raises blood sugar. Additionally, it slows the rate at which food empties from the stomach and enters circulation.

For many patients, adding semaglutide to their diabetes regimen helps them achieve better glycemic control and HbA1c targets. This can reduce the risk of complications. It may also allow the reduction of other medications. Of course, semaglutide is not a substitute for lifestyle interventions like a diabetes-friendly nutrition plan and regular physical activity.

For Weight Management

In addition to its blood sugar-lowering effects, semaglutide has also been shown to induce weight loss through appetite suppression. This makes it useful as a weight management drug for chronic obesity.

Obesity is a disease characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat that impairs overall health. It’s associated with conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and certain cancers. Losing even a modest amount of weight can improve these obesity-related complications.

However, long-term weight loss through diet and exercise alone can be incredibly challenging. This is where semaglutide can help. By curbing appetite and slowing digestion, it promotes feelings of fullness and reduces overall caloric intake.

In clinical trials, patients taking semaglutide lost significantly more weight over 68 weeks compared to placebo. It was also more effective than other weight loss medications like phentermine/topiramate.

Semaglutide is approved for chronic weight management in adults who are obese or those who are overweight with at least one weight-related health condition like hypertension or T2D. When combined with lifestyle interventions, semaglutide provides an additional tool to help patients reach and maintain a healthier body weight, which carries numerous health benefits.

How Semaglutide Functions in the Body

When injected, semaglutide activates GLP-1 receptors throughout the body and mimics the effects of the natural GLP-1 hormone. It helps regulate blood sugar in several ways:

  • Increases insulin secretion from the pancreas when blood sugar is high
  • Decreases glucagon secretion from the pancreas to lower blood sugar
  • Slows digestion and reduces the rate at which food enters the bloodstream
  • Creates feelings of fullness and suppresses appetite to reduce food intake

These combined effects make semaglutide an effective medication for lowering A1c and assisting with weight loss.

Common Side Effects of Semaglutide

While semaglutide can provide beneficial effects for blood sugar management and weight loss, it also has potential side effects. The most common side effects reported in clinical trials include:


One of the most frequently reported side effects of semaglutide is nausea. Up to 40% of patients taking semaglutide injections report experiencing nausea. It tends to be more common when first starting treatment. Taking the medication with food may help reduce symptoms of nausea.


Approximately 12-15% of patients report diarrhea as a side effect of semaglutide. It’s thought that the medication may increase digestive tract motility, resulting in diarrhea for some patients. Staying well hydrated can help manage this side effect.


Vomiting may occur in around 10-12% of patients on semaglutide. As with nausea, it tends to happen more frequently when first starting treatment. If vomiting persists, contact your healthcare provider, as your dosage may need adjustment.

Decreased Appetite

Since semaglutide curbs appetite, decreased appetite is an expected on-label side effect. While it may be beneficial for weight loss in some cases, it's important to still consume a healthy, balanced diet while on semaglutide.

Abdominal Pain

Some people report mild abdominal pain with semaglutide use. This may be related to reduced gallbladder emptying. If you have a history of gallstones, discuss this with your provider before using semaglutide.


Constipation is another possible gastrointestinal side effect, reported in up to 9% of clinical trial participants. Making dietary changes, exercising, and staying hydrated can help relieve constipation.


Headaches may happen as a side effect in around 5% of users. These tend to be mild and go away on their own. Consult your doctor if headaches are severe or persistent.


Some people report increased fatigue or tiredness when taking semaglutide. Making lifestyle adjustments to improve sleep hygiene may help counteract this. Inform your doctor if fatigue significantly impacts your daily activities.


Dyspepsia refers to indigestion, discomfort, or pain in the upper abdomen. Taking semaglutide with food may reduce dyspepsia symptoms.

Safety Precautions and Interactions with Semaglutide

There are some important safety considerations regarding semaglutide. These include contraindications for its use as well as potential medication interactions.

Contraindications for Use of Semaglutide

Semaglutide should not be used under certain conditions due to safety concerns, including:

  • History of hypersensitivity reaction to semaglutide or any excipients in the product
  • Patients with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or those with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Children under 18 years old

Interactions with Other Drugs

The following medications may potentially interact with semaglutide:

  • Other diabetes medications like insulin or sulfonylureas – semaglutide can increase their blood sugar lowering effect, raising hypoglycemia risk
  • Digoxin – semaglutide may increase digoxin levels
  • Blood thinners like warfarin–semaglutide may change their anticoagulant effect
  • Over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements – some may worsen side effects of semaglutide

Always discuss any new medications with your healthcare provider before starting semaglutide to ensure safety and avoid potentially harmful interactions.

Special Precautions for Certain Populations

Semaglutide should be used with caution in patients with:

  • Kidney impairment – semaglutide exposure may increase with worsening renal function
  • Hepatic impairment – use is not recommended for patients with severe hepatic impairment
  • Gastroparesis – semaglutide further slows gastric emptying and may worsen symptoms
  • History of pancreatitis – cases of acute pancreatitis have been reported with GLP-1 receptor agonists
  • Diabetic retinopathy – semaglutide may increase risk of eye complications

Careful monitoring and follow-up is important if semaglutide is used in any of these patient populations.

About Perfect Health

At Perfect Health, we're committed to helping our patients manage diabetes and reach their weight loss goals. Our experienced providers offer medications like semaglutide as part of customized treatment plans for health and wellness. Contact us today to learn more.

In summary, semaglutide injections offer considerable benefits for many people with type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, as with most medications, there is a risk of side effects that should be considered before starting treatment. The most common side effects of semaglutide include gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There are also important safety precautions regarding medication interactions and use in certain groups. Working closely with your healthcare provider can help maximize the advantages of semaglutide injections while minimizing risks. Be sure to report any persistent or concerning side effects promptly during treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the most common side effects of semaglutide?

The most frequent side effects reported with semaglutide are gastrointestinal, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and decreased appetite. Headaches and fatigue may also occur.

How long do the side effects of semaglutide last?

Semaglutide side effects are most common when first starting treatment but tend to improve over time. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea generally resolve within 4-8 weeks of continued use.

Are there any serious side effects of semaglutide I should watch for?

Seek medical care if you experience severe abdominal pain, pancreatitis symptoms (severe abdominal tenderness), signs of a thyroid tumor, or a severe allergic reaction such as throat swelling, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis.

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