Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/19/2022
Many men go bald, and some men have diabetes. But can a medication for diabetes cause baldness? Is hair loss one of the Ozempic side effects?
When living with a disease like diabetes, there are a lot of things to worry about, from safe dietary choices to insulin levels. But medication-related side effects might also be part of that list.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a drug therapy caused hair loss, after all. Another major disease, cancer, is often treated with hair loss-causing chemotherapy. Would it really be the craziest thing if Ozempic made your hair fall out?
We were wondering the same thing, so we looked into it. Ozempic probably isn’t going to cause you to lose hair, but to understand why, we need to start with some basics about this medication and how it interacts with your body in the context of diabetes and hair.
Whether you’re about to start taking Ozempic for diabetes management or have already been on it for some time, there are a few things you need to know. Let’s start with the most obvious question you might have.
Ozempic is a brand-name version of semaglutide, which is in the drug class called glucagon-like peptide receptor agonists. The active drug semaglutide (and Ozempic) is a prescription medication that reactivates insulin secretion processes that have stopped or aren’t working as well as they should — in short, it's a diabetes drug.
Regular doses of this injectable medication can allow people with type 2 diabetes to make insulin for themselves again, which can help them manage their blood sugar levels and reduce dependency on an insulin regimen.
Another plus? Semaglutide has also been shown to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events like heart attacks and heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes and diagnosed cardiovascular disease.
Those are incredible benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, and drug therapy with semaglutide can be effective as part of a plan for treatment of type 2 diabetes.
But diabetes isn’t the only reason someone might want to use Ozempic. Ozempic has been in the news recently because it affects body weight, and for people who struggle with weight management, a little subcutaneous injection seems like an easy solution. But using this medication for reasons besides diabetes, including as a weight loss drug, carries serious potential risks, and should only be considered with the help of someone who knows what they’re doing.
There are also some risks to this medication when it’s used for diabetes. While semaglutide is effective in reducing certain severe symptoms of type 2 diabetes, it has been shown to create other risks, like an increased heart rate and vision problems like diabetic retinopathy or vision loss. There are also certain gastrointestinal side effects associated with this medication.
Typically, semaglutide and similar diabetes medications aren’t first-line treatments. Instead, they’re used when diet and exercise changes fail to deliver the sort of response that helps you achieve blood sugar control.
But could Ozempic’s status as a secondary medication be due to drug interactions, allergic reactions or common semaglutide side effects like hair loss? Well, actually no, no it isn’t.
It’s rare that we’re able to give a simple answer to a question like this, so we’ll try to keep things brief. As simply as we can put it, Ozempic does not cause hair loss, according to any research or primary sources we could put our eyes on.
No National Institutes of Health information that we scoured listed even one incident of hair loss or hair thinning in relation to Ozempic treatments, and that’s a pretty clear demonstration that if anything, it’s a rare side effect. Furthermore, FDA materials included on packaging for Ozempic did not mention any hair-related adverse effects for Ozempic.
But there are other potential side effects or adverse reactions. Ozempic can raise your risk of hypoglycemia, which can result in blurred vision and other issues. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation and other gastrointestinal problems mean that Ozempic is not the gentlest medication out there. It could also potentially increase your risk of thyroid cancer — specifically thyroid C-cell tumors — but this has only been proven in studies of rats at the moment.
Now, you should know that if Ozempic does cause medullary thyroid carcinoma (another name for medullary thyroid cancer), one of the potential symptoms of this type of thyroid tumor can be hair loss.
But as far as Ozempic itself and your hair, there doesn’t seem to be any issues to report.
But you still might have heard of people who take Ozempic and lose hair, and are wondering why hair loss would happen for some people while taking Ozempic. Surprisingly, it has more to do with the disease itself, rather than the treatment.
Just because Ozempic is working doesn’t mean that the medical condition diabetes isn’t doing its own thing. And some of that “thing” may be causing you hair problems.
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While Ozempic may not cause hair loss, it’s possible that hair loss might coincide with use of Ozempic in some people. That’s because diabetes, the disease that Ozempic is designed to help manage, can occasionally cause hair loss.
Hair loss is often triggered by genetic factors, which is the case with androgenic alopecia, the disorder known as male pattern baldness. And men and women can both lose hair as they age. But age and genetics aren’t the only factors. Diseases like lupus and certain thyroid problems can also cause hair loss, as can stress, poor diet and medications like chemotherapy.
Diabetes is just one of the conditions on that list.
This is where things get a little messy though. Some experts associate type 2 diabetes with an increased risk of alopecia areata or frontal fibrosing alopecia — two types of hair loss associated with autoimmune diseases.
The thing is, however, type 2 diabetes isn’t technically considered an autoimmune disease — not yet. Scientists don’t really have all the answers on type 2 diabetes right now, but they’re coming closer to linking it to an altered immune response. Type 1 diabetes does meet those qualifications, but it’s not really what Ozempic is designed to treat.
What does this all mean? Well, it’s possible that type 2 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which case hair loss could be a resulting symptom of the disease for some people. That would explain the incidence of hair loss while taking Ozempic much better than calling it a medication side effect — which, again, hasn’t been proven in any research thus far.
Either way, we’re pretty confident that diabetes is the more likely culprit of hair loss in this case, and that affects how you should treat it. Let’s explore those treatment options.
If you’re a patient with type 2 diabetes mellitus, you probably already have a primary medical care provider or other healthcare provider helping you navigate your treatment and disease management. They may prescribe diabetes drugs like Ozempic for your diabetes treatment, but there are things you can do for yourself too.
One of the most effective treatments you’ll encounter is simply a focus on diet and exercise. Lowering saturated fat and refined carbohydrates in your diet and avoiding high fructose corn syrup and other bad-for-you food ingredients are musts. And between 90 minutes and 150 minutes of exercise per week is important. This last part may go without saying, but if you’re obese, your weight loss should also be a priority.
(By the way, if you’ve ever wondered what the connection between hair loss and weight loss is, check out our blog.)
As for hair loss, diet and exercise may reduce the symptoms of hair loss from diabetes, but treating the hair loss itself is crucial if you want to maintain a mane.
Minoxidil (the generic of Rogaine) is a proven treatment that can help you regrow hair. It’s a topical medication that can stimulate hair growth while also preventing further hair loss. It works by stimulating the blood flow to hair follicles, which are then able to better access supplies of nutrients sometimes cut off by genetic changes that occur as we age.
Finasteride, meanwhile, is an oral medication (and the generic of Propecia). It can stimulate new growth with a daily pill, while also warding off further hair loss. Finasteride inhibits the production of dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which is thought to damage your hair follicles and eventually put them out of work. Research shows that it can reduce DHT levels by as much as 70 percent, slowing hair loss.
Diabetes and hair loss can both be scary experiences. They’re not conditions that go away after a quick visit to a Walgreens pharmacy or a CVS pharmacy, and over-the-counter medicines won’t fix these problems in time for the weekend.
If you’re experiencing both, it may feel like your body is failing you inside and out. It’s normal to feel that way, but important to know that you can take action to treat both your diabetes and hair loss.
Our advice is to do something, and one thing in particular: talk to a healthcare provider. These are problems that require a healthcare team. A licensed healthcare professional may suggest treatments like the ones we’ve discussed, or other avenues of management for diabetes and hair loss that might help in your unique circumstances. They can also help you understand common side effects of the medications you’ll use, tell you when to seek medical attention if mild side effects get too severe and walk you through the medication guide on any prescription drugs generally.
Our hair loss resources are a great place to start that search, and learn a bit more about the causes of hair loss in general. If you’re looking for answers and support from healthcare professionals, follow up with us today.