Written By: Robert King, Esq.
Legal Review By: Daniel Nigh, Esq.
The Ozempic Lawsuit is an active lawsuit
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Ozempic and Blindness Overview

While medications like Ozempic and Wegovy have recently gained popularity, they’ve also earned skepticism about their safety. In addition to serious side effects like stomach paralysis and intestinal blockages, blindness is now a concern. New findings link Ozempic’s active ingredient semaglutide to a rare eye condition called nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). NAION, also called an eye stroke, occurs when there is less blood flow to the optic nerve, leading to sudden, painless vision loss. This results in permanent changes to your optic nerve and vision which could be irreversible. 

Findings are preliminary and more research is needed to understand this risk. However, it’s important for patients and healthcare providers to understand the implication that Ozempic and Wegovy can increase one’s risk of developing a serious eye condition. Many individuals have already taken legal action against Novo Nordisk, Ozempic’s manufacturer, after developing serious health conditions they felt they weren’t adequately warned about. This latest study could further propel the growing number of Ozempic and Wegovy lawsuits.

Research Linking Ozempic to Blindness

Research continues to emerge regarding serious side effects of Ozempic and other GLP-1 receptor agonists: 

July 2024: Study Connects Ozempic to Condition Causing Blindness

Blindness became the latest concern for Ozempic patients as new findings connect semaglutide to sudden vision loss in one eye that is oftentimes permanent. This raised concerns about why Novo Nordisk isn’t warning patients of such serious side effects and calls for more research. 

January 2024: Multiple Vision Changes Emerge as Potential Concerns for Ozempic 

A systemic review focused on patients taking semaglutide emerged with multiple primary and secondary outcomes. Notably, blurred vision, retinopathy, and other macular complications were defined as exploratory outcomes that warrant additional research to better understand all risks of taking the medication. 

August 2021 – Ozempic Associated With Heightened Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy 

Study results focused on diabetic retinopathy (DR) in patients taking semaglutide found that “a higher risk for DR complications were observed with semaglutide in patients with proliferative and non-proliferative DR at baseline.” However, researchers do acknowledge that worsening DR can be from rapid drops in blood glucose levels from diabetic medications. 

June 2020 – Ozempic Associated With Diabetic Retinopathy and Adverse Ocular Events 

A study found that Ozempic is associated with diabetic retinopathy and adverse ocular events more than other GLP-1 receptor agonists. Total reported cases of diabetic retinopathy and adverse ocular events were 16.4% and 1.1% (respectively) for Ozempic. Other diabetic medications ranged from 2.3%-6.3% for diabetic retinopathy and 0.05%-0.19% for adverse ocular events.

About Ozempic’s Link to Blindness:

The study linking semaglutide to blindness focused on 16,827 patients, some who were prescribed semaglutide and some who were prescribed a different non-glucagon-like peptide receptor antagonist drug for the treatment of diabetes or obesity. The study analyzed medical records over the course of six years and was conducted by Mass Eye and Ear, which is a Harvard teaching hospital that specializes in eye care and research. 

To conduct the study, researchers did the following: 

  1. Analyzed the records of more than 17,000 patients over six years after Ozempic was released (2017-2023). 
  2. Patients who were diagnosed with diabetes or overweight/obesity were separated. 
  3. Patients who took semaglutide were compared to those who took other diabetes or weight management drugs.
  4. The rate of NAION diagnoses was compared across groups to identify potential connections between the medications and eye diagnoses. 

Highlights from the July 2024 study include: 

  • “Our main finding is that prescribed semaglutide is associated with an increased risk of NAION.”
  • Patients with diabetes who took semaglutide were more than four times more likely to develop NAION than those on other medications. 
  • Patients who were obese and took semaglutide were more than eight times more likely to develop NAION than those on other medications. 
  • Joseph Rizzo, MD, who led the study, noted how physicians should let patients know that NAION is a risk associated with semaglutide, though potentially uncommon. 
  • The study kicked off after multiple people at Mass Eye and Ear realized a trend with three patients in their practice getting a vision loss diagnosis from NAION in just one week, all taking semaglutide. However, NAION is rare and occurs in only 10 out of 100,000 people. 

The study’s researchers acknowledged some limitations of their study. For example, Mass Eye and Ear already see a high number of patients with rare eye conditions, most of whom are white, and the study was relatively short. Patients could have also taken their semaglutide inconsistently or stopped taking it, impacting their actual risk. More research is needed to understand why there is an association between semaglutide and NAION, as well as why results vary for diabetic and overweight groups. 

Despite these limitations, the findings were significant. Plus, patients who take semaglutide and/or who have type 2 diabetes already have an increased risk of vision problems, emphasizing the need for them to understand all potential risks.

This infographic notes some statistics on blindness related to Ozempic use. An image of a doctor pointing to a model eye iris, explaining to the patient.

How Does Ozempic Cause Blindness?

Ultimately, the study found a correlation between semaglutide, the main ingredient in Ozempic, and NAION. The exact reason is unknown and researchers need to conduct more studies. Potential causes may include: 

  • Semaglutide could impact blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the optic nerve. 
  • Rapid blood pressure changes from diabetes treatment could impact blood supply to the optic nerve. 
  • Ozempic could cause inflammation that negatively impacts the optic nerve. 
  • As the medication impacts glucose metabolism, it could also impact optic nerve health. 
  • Other medication side effects, such as dehydration or imbalanced electrolytes could affect the optic nerve. 

Additional steps needed to confirm and better understand how Ozempic can cause blindness include: 

  • Researchers need to conduct a larger, randomized, and controlled clinical trial that can conclude a causal tie between semaglutide and NAION. 
  • The study should span longer than six years and eliminate unknowns such as if the patients stopped taking semaglutide. 
  • Physicians need to continue reporting cases of NAION in patients who were prescribed medications like Wegovy or Ozempic that contain semaglutide. 

All hypothetical reasons why semaglutide can cause blindness need to be explored through further research. 

This infographic explains what NAION is and how semaglutides likes Ozempic could cause NAION. An image of a Phoropter in the center.

Ozempic Eye Side Effects and Symptoms

Ozempic could contribute to many different eye conditions, including: 

Diabetic retinopathy: Individuals with diabetes may have too much sugar in their blood, damaging the retina’s blood vessels. Advanced diabetic retinopathy occurs when new abnormal blood vessels develop in the retina that commonly leak fluid or blood (neovascularization). This is the leading cause of vision loss in diabetic patients though researchers are still unclear why Ozempic can worsen diabetic retinopathy complications. 

Blurred vision: Changes to blood sugar can cause swelling of the lens of the eye, changing its overall shape and causing blurred vision. Semaglutide impacts blood sugar levels, impacting the lens shape and therefore sometimes causing blurred vision. Oftentimes, vision will clear up after blood sugar levels become stable. 

Macular complications: As Ozempic and other GLP-1 receptor agonists are associated with worsening diabetic retinopathy, they can also contribute to macular edema. Macular edema occurs when the macula swells from leaking blood vessels. 

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION): Ozempic can contribute to reduced blood flow to the optic nerve, though researchers are still unclear why. This damages the optic nerve and can cause sudden blindness with what’s called non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. For some, their blindness is permanent or they experience severe vision loss. 

In addition to these severe eye conditions, Ozempic may also cause dry or irritated eyes, light sensitivity, visual disturbances, or new/worsening eye pain or pain near the eye. 

What is Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION)?

Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is when blood and oxygen flow to the optic nerve is compromised, causing optic nerve swelling and sudden blindness in one eye, typically without any pain. 

While the name of this condition is complex, here’s how it breaks down: 

  • Non-arteritic: Doesn’t involve inflammation of the arteries, unlike arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AAION).
  • Anterior ischemic: Involves the front portion of the optic nerve and inadequate blood supply.
  • Optic neuropathy: There’s damage to the optic nerve, which is crucial for communication between the eyes and the brain. 

NAION is the most common form of ischemic optic neuropathy and is often referred to as an eye stroke. It’s associated with optic disc swelling and the absence of pain. Vision loss may get worse before stabilizing and will likely have low potential to improve. 

NAION Risk Factors 

Risk factors of NAION include: 

  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cardio- and cerebrovascular disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Certain medications, such as sildenafil (Viagra) and semaglutide (Ozempic)
  • Most common in adults over 50 years of age (average age of onset is 66 years old)
  • Higher risk in white people than other ethnic groups

This infographic lists the factors that increase the risk of developing NAION. It's noted that there is no cure for NAION, but 43% of patients recover partial vision.

NAION Diagnosis and Prognosis

To diagnose NAION, a doctor will first look at your medical history, including any medications you’re taking. They will listen to all of your symptoms, then perform a thorough examination where they measure visual acuity, color vision, and peripheral visual field. If there are any abnormalities, the eye doctor will rule out other conditions and may conduct an imaging scan, like a CT or MRI, though those typically aren’t required to diagnose NAION. 

There are no proven effective treatments for NAION despite many clinical trials looking at over a dozen various therapies. Vision loss will usually worsen over the course of two weeks and then stabilize. If it gets worse after two months, patients may have been misdiagnosed. Up to 43% of patients may partially recover their vision. There’s less than a 5% chance of recurrence in the same eye and up to a 15% chance of getting NAION in the other eye within five years.

How Common Is Blindness With Ozempic Users?

While blindness is considered a rare potential symptom of Ozempic, initial findings show a significant connection. A study by Mass Eye and Ear found that those on semaglutide were four times more likely to develop NAION (17 of 200 diabetes patients) and eight times more likely to develop NAION if they were also obese or overweight (20 of 361 overweight or obese patients). This equates to: 

  • 8.9% of diabetic patients taking semaglutide received a NAION diagnosis. 
  • 1.8% of diabetic patients taking other medications received a NAION diagnosis.
  • 6.7% of overweight or obese patients taking semaglutide received a NAION diagnosis. 
  • 0.8% of overweight or obese patients taking other medications received a NAION diagnosis.

Is Blindness From Ozempic Permanent?

In short, nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, which is linked to Ozempic, can cause permanent blindness in one eye. Optic nerve swelling from NAION will often go down within 1-2 months, and patients may recover some central vision. However, permanent damage is left behind. In one study, around 40% of patients that had significant vision loss experienced some improvement of their central vision over time, though there was little improvement to visual field loss . 

If patients develop NAION after using Ozempic, they should seek immediate medical care. An ophthalmologist will conduct an exam to provide an official diagnosis and help you better understand your prognosis and treatment options. 

Unfortunately, there is no known effective treatment for NAION. Some studies suggest corticosteroids could show a mild improvement, but whether or not they are truly helpful is still unknown. Eyeglasses do not help because NAION is related to nerve damage that is usually considered permanent.

How to Prevent Blindness While Taking Ozempic

There are some ways Ozempic patients may reduce their risk of blindness in one eye. Ways to reduce NAION risk include: 

  • Maintain controlled blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels with direction from your doctor 
  • Stick to regular check-ups with an eye doctor to monitor for any symptoms or abnormalities
  • Adhere to a healthy lifestyle with the proper diet and exercise, and avoid smoking to support good cardiovascular health
  • Follow medication instructions and direction from your doctor 
  • Keep an eye out for symptoms like blurred vision, dark spots, flashes of light, or sudden vision loss and seek care immediately if you experience them 
  • Let your doctor know if you are taking semaglutide or if you have any other risk factors of NAION

This infographic shows a bulleted list of how an individual can help prevent NAION.

Other Semaglutide Drugs Linked to Vision Problems

Semaglutide is not available as a generic drug and is instead branded under three different medications: Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus. All three medications are designed to help with diabetes and weight management with semaglutide as their main ingredient. Therefore, Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelus all can cause an increased risk of NAION and other vision issues. 

Novo Nordisk’s Response to Ozempic Blindness Allegations

Novo Nordisk, similar to many other pharmaceutical companies who have faced backlash from not disclosing serious health risks, has pushed back on claims. News outlets have reported how the company’s response has been “unperturbed” as they brush off concerns of blindness when taking Ozempic. 

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson called out how NAION is not listed on approved labels as an “adverse drug reaction for the marketed formulations of semaglutide.” They also highlighted limitations of the Mass Eye and Ear study, such as how the sample group was small and not randomized. The manufacturer’s spokesperson also insisted that “patient safety is a top priority for Novo Nordisk, and we take all reports about adverse events from our medicines very seriously.”

Have You Experienced Blindness While Taking Ozempic?

If you have experienced symptoms of vision loss while taking Ozempic or another semaglutide medication, it’s crucial to see medical care as soon as possible. And if you’re taking Ozempic, ensure you regularly visit the eye doctor and notify them of the potential risk factor so they can monitor your vision and eye health closely. 

Furthermore, reach out to King Law to explore your legal options. With a growing list of serious symptoms after taking Ozempic, thousands are suing Novo Nordisk for its failure to adequately warn consumers about the drug’s risk. If you’ve been in a similar situation, you could be eligible for compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact an Ozempic Lawyer

Don’t hesitate to reach out to an Ozempic lawyer as soon as possible. To file an Ozempic lawsuit, you must follow state-specific statutes of limitations that often only give you 2-3 years to file a claim after your diagnosis or injury. To ensure you don’t miss your opportunity for justice and compensation, contact a lawyer who has experience handling cases that involve Ozempic or other semaglutide drugs and serious side effects like blindness, stomach paralysis, and intestinal blockages. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Learn more about Ozempic and blindness with answers to these frequently asked questions.

How does Ozempic affect your vision?
The active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, is linked to a rare eye condition that causes sudden blindness that can be permanent.
Can Ozempic affect your eyesight?
Ozempic could cause non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) which is when reduced blood flow to the optic nerve causes sudden blindness.
What are the Ozempic eye side effects?
Ozempic can cause severe side effects, though sometimes rare, including stomach paralysis, gastrointestinal blockages, and blindness.
Can Ozempic cause blindness?
Recent studies have linked Ozempic to NAION, which involves sudden blindness. However, more research is needed to determine a causal relationship.
What recent study links Ozempic to blindness?
The study linking Ozempic to blindness was conducted by Mass Eye and Ear, which is part of Mass General Brigham and a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.
How does Ozempic cause blindness?
Ozempic is linked to blindness by somehow impacting blood flow to the optic nerve, which causes swelling and damage that leads to blindness or vision loss in one eye.
Who is at risk for developing NAION while taking Ozempic?
Anyone who is taking a drug with semaglutide, like Ozempic, is at risk for development of NAION, based on recent findings. Additional risk factors include those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.
How common is blindness among Ozempic users?
A recent study found that patients who took semaglutide were around four to seven times more likely to receive a NAION diagnosis than those on other medications for diabetes or obesity.
Is blindness from Ozempic permanent?
Unfortunately, blindness from NAION is typically permanent though some patients may experience some recovery (around 40%).
Does Ozempic cause dry eyes?
Yes, dry eyes are a side effect of Ozempic.
Does Ozempic cause eye floaters?
Ozempic could cause eye floaters and other vision changes. Patients should let their healthcare provider know about any such changes as soon as possible to rule out more serious complications.
Why does Ozempic make your eyes blurry?
Ozempic can cause changes to your blood glucose levels, which changes the shape of your eye lens. When this happens, you can experience blurred vision.
Does blurred vision from Ozempic go away?
Blurred vision from Ozempic can resolve after three to four months. Longer-lasting eye issues could be a sign of a more serious adverse reaction, prompting medical care.
What should I do if I experience vision loss while taking Ozempic?
Seek medical care as soon as possible if you experience vision loss while taking Ozempic.