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Are Headaches A Symptom Of Diabetes


Why Do Hypos Happen

Diabetes and Headaches: Yes, They Are Related

Understanding why you get hypos can help you prevent them from happening as often.

We dont always know why hypos happen, but some things make them more likely. These include:

  • missing or delaying a meal or snack
  • not having enough carbohydrate at your last meal
  • doing a lot of exercise without having extra carbohydrate or without reducing your insulin dose
  • taking more insulin than you needed
  • drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

Insulin and some other diabetes medications can make you more likely to have a hypo. Check with your diabetes healthcare team if youre not sure whether the treatment youre on is likely to cause hypos.

Diabetic Headaches Caused By Hyperglycemia

Headaches from having elevated blood glucose levels dont usually occur unless the blood glucose levels are higher than 200 milligrams per deciliter. Many diabetics wont have a headache even at this level but have headaches when the blood glucose level is markedly high, in the range of 400 milligrams per deciliter. It usually takes several days before a diabetic headache to occur when high blood glucose levels are the cause.


The headache comes on gradually and is an early sign that your blood sugar level needs attention. The higher your blood glucose level is, the greater is the seriousness of the headache. Along with a headache from high blood sugar, you may experience other symptoms caused by hyperglycemia, including non-healing sores, increased feelings of hunger, increased thirst, dehydration, excessive urination, blurry vision, and tiredness.

You can decrease the incidence of headaches by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking your diabetic medication as prescribed so that the blood sugar levels stay in good control. If you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, you need to talk to your doctor about changing your insulin dosage so that the blood sugars stay within a normal range.

If Your Headaches Are Unrelated To Your Diabetes

And of course, if your headaches persist to an unmanageable levelyou may be suffering from migraines which is really a different beast than your basic headache. Theres also a slew of other diagnosable health conditions unrelated to diabetes that can result in a headache.

Dont hesitate to contact your healthcare team if you think your headaches have become severe or are actually migraines.

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Who Gets Type 1 Diabetes

Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, about two-thirds of new cases are diagnosed in individuals under the age of 19. Researchers have noted two peak times for development of type 1 diabetes the first is in early childhood and the second occurs at puberty. Type 1 diabetes affects males and females equally, and is more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups. A family history of type 1 diabetes also increases one’s risk for developing type 1 diabetes.

Which Type Of Diabetes

Can You Get Headaches From Diabetes

Both hypo- and hyperglycemia can trigger headaches and migraines. They can be super painful, with a throbbing or pulsing sensation on in your head. You might also feel weak, nauseous, and sensitive to light or sound.

Diabetes-related headaches can cause other symptoms too, depending on whether your blood sugar is too low or too high.

  • Low blood sugar headaches can leave you feeling faint, shaky, nauseous, or sweaty.
  • High blood sugar headaches may be accompanied by feeling super thirsty or having to pee more than usual, fatigue, or blurred vision.

First up, when you notice that throbbing pain coming on, start by checking your levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for these targets:

  • Between 80 and 130 mg/dL before meals
  • Less than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after meals

If your blood sugar is below the target range, try having 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbs like glucose tablets or gel, juice, regular soda, or sugary candy.


If you dont start to feel any better within 15 minutes, have another 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbs. This can help bring your blood sugar back up and start to ease your headache. After, have a healthy meal or snack to keep your levels stable.

If your blood sugar is above the target range, you may need to adjust your insulin levels or take a supplement of short-acting insulin.

Say it with us: Extreme blood sugar swings can be life-threatening. No bueno.

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Diabetic Ketoacidosis Is Not Ketosis

When youre in ketosis, your body burns fat instead of glucose to produce energy. This produces acids called ketones in your body. But the levels of ketones arent alarming here. DKA is a potentially dangerous condition among diabetics that can be life-threatening. It occurs when the ketone levels in the body are high and when you have very high blood glucose levels accompanied by a severe shortage of insulin in the body. Triggers include not managing your diabetes properly , an illness , surgery, taking steroidal medication, or binge drinking.5 When ketones begin to build up in your blood and start to enter your urine as well, itll bring on a host of symptoms characteristic of DKA.6


How Does Hypoglycemia Cause Headaches

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is said to occur at blood glucose levels lower than 70 mg/dL. The body relies on glucose as its primary source of fuel for many cells, including the cells in the brain. Without an adequate amount of fuel, the body is unable to function properly and symptoms typically develop quickly, including headaches.

With low blood sugar, you may feel perfectly fine one minute and then develop a bad headache just moments later. However, you are also likely to experience other symptoms of hypoglycemia at the same time.

In addition to headache, symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Weakness

People with diabetes can experience hypoglycemia if they use too much insulin or other medications to manage their diabetes. Severe hypoglycemia can cause life-threatening complications, including seizures, loss of consciousness, or coma, so its important to know how to recognize the signs and take action when needed.

Rapid-absorbing glucose powder and other fast-acting carb and sugar products can come in handy when this happens. Regularly experiencing hypoglycemia is a sign that a person may need to make changes to their diabetes care plan.


Also Check: What To Do If Blood Sugar Is Over 400

What Causes The Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes

All type 1 diabetes symptoms are caused by that lack of insulin. You see, insulin usually acts like a gatekeeper: it takes the glucose that your body converts from carbohydrates in your food and opens your cells so that it can enter them. Once allowed inside, the glucose can then be used by your cells as fuel.

If theres not sufficient insulin to open the gate and let the glucose in, it becomes blocked out of your cells and stays trapped in your bloodstream, causing your blood sugar to rise.

When you first develop type 1 diabetes, there may be some residual insulin remaining in your cells. This is why glucose levels can sometimes hover close enough to normal to go undetected until that initial supply is depleted.

Over time, as the insulin in your body is sapped with no new supply being produced to replace it, symptoms begin to appear and accelerate. When you reach a point where theres no insulin and too much accumulated glucose in your bloodstream, type 1 diabetes symptoms develop rapidly and have to be addressed immediately.


It’s important to note that a little bit of glucose in our blood is normal, says Ilana Halperin MD, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Our blood sugar starts to rise when we consume carbohydrates after a meal, and then as the insulin moves the glucose into our cells, our blood sugar levels dip back down.

Frequent Urination Could Be Related To Diabetes

Does diabetes cause headaches

When there is excess glucose present in the blood, as with type 2 diabetes, the kidneys are not able to handle all of it and have to flush some out of the blood and into the urine, Ovalle says. This results in more urine production and increased urinary frequency and urgency, called polyuria. Some people may notice they have to get up every couple of hours during the night to urinate and that they produce more urine when they do go.

The presence of excess glucose can also cause the urine to have a sweet smell. This is most common in advanced cases of type 2 diabetes, he says.

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What Are Symptoms Of High Blood Sugar

When blood sugar levels are high, most people will feel thirsty and feel a need to urinate more often.


Symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Quit smoking
  • Adjust the amount of insulin used or the timing of when its taken
  • Surgery, for cases that do not respond to medications
  • Bariatric surgery to promote weight loss in obese patients
  • Artificial pancreas, to replace the use of insulin injections and pumps and the need for manual testing of glucose levels
  • Type 1 Diabetes And Diet

    People with type 1 diabetes, like everyone else, need to eat a well-balanced diet. This will help their insulin therapy and reduce the chance of diabetic complications. There is no “diabetes diet.” Even a person with type 1 diabetes can eat sweets as long as it is part of a well-balanced diet. That is not to say they can eat anything all the time, but they need to consider how sweets can fit into their well-balanced diet. Type 1 diabetics should also consider the fact that carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels faster than any other food. Food low in carbs, but high in calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and other vitamins are excellent food choices for diabetics. Consider the following guidelines when planning your meals:

    • Eat less unhealthy fat
    • Keep track of carbohydrate consumption
    • Keep track of carbohydrates in sugar-free foods

    Healthcare workers such as dietitians can help people with diabetes plan a well-balanced and varied diet.

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    How To Treat Sugar Headaches

    If you have a headache and you suspect it is from high blood sugar levels, make sure you are hydrated, says Barnathan. Your headache may be partly from the dehydration caused by hyperglycemia. You can also take an over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve your headache.


    If your headache is a result of hypoglycemia, it is usually because you haven’t eaten, so eating a healthy meal will help. For example, eating small meals throughout the day full of whole grains, fiber, and lean protein can help avoid hypoglycemia.

    If you have diabetes, make sure you always have a fast-acting carbohydrate with you, like juice or glucose tablets. These carbs can be quickly broken down into sugar, so you can raise your blood sugar fast before it drops dangerously low.

    If you don’t have diabetes, but recently cut sugar out of your diet and are experiencing headaches, make sure your body has complex carbs to break down for energy. That will help avoid ketosis and the accompanying headaches. Complex carbs include:

    • Whole grains like oatmeal or bread
    • Vegetables like peas
    • Legumes like beans

    Early Signs And Symptoms Of Type 2 Diabetes

    Brain Fog Causes, Symptoms + 7 Natural Treatments

    Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your body doesnât make enough of a hormone called insulin or doesnât use insulin the way it should. Insulin helps carry glucose to your cells. So when thereâs a problem with the insulin, glucose builds up in your blood. Youâve probably heard this called high blood sugar.

    About 90% of people who have diabetes have type 2. The other two main ones are type 1, in which your body stops making insulin, and gestational, which happens in pregnant women.


    You can usually control type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes. Some people also need medication.

    You might not know that you have type 2 diabetes until it affects your health. About 1 in 4 people with the condition donât know that they have it.

    Symptoms can come on slowly. They may include:

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    Blurred Vision Could Be A Result Of Rapid Blood Sugar Changes

    Blurred vision can occur when there are rapid changes in blood sugar from low to high or high to low and the eye muscles have not yet adapted to it, Dr. Einhorn says.


    The lens of the eye is a flexible membrane suspended by muscles that change the shape of the lens to focus the eye. In a high-sugar environment, such as with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, the lens loses some of its ability to bend, he explains, and the muscles of the eye have to work harder to focus.

    The good news: Caught early, diabetes-related vision changes can return to normal after about six week of healthy blood sugar levels, Turner says. Caught in time, vision may take about six weeks to return to normal.

    Food And Eating Habits

    Despite the constant recommendations to eat healthfully when you have diabetes, its not necessarily easy to change your eating habits. No one is perfect! But when it comes to your food choices or how and when you eat, its worthwhile to focus on a) trying to get into an eating routine and b) making healthful food decisions most of the time. Youll reap a host of benefits by doing so, including more stable blood glucose levels, reaching and staying at a healthy weight, a lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, and, yes, fewer headaches. What and how you eat can be directly responsible for headaches, especially migraines. Typical triggers for migraines include:

    Too much or too little caffeine Alcohol, especially red wine, whiskey, Scotch, and champagne Aged cheeses Nitrates and nitrites, found in cold cuts, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon Monosodium glutamate Foods or drinks containing aspartame, a nonnutritive sweetener Citrus fruits

    Other culprits: skipping or delaying meals, and not drinking enough fluids.


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    Treating Headaches From Hypoglycemia

    The first step in treating a hypoglycemia-induced headache is to confirm that the pain is occurring due to low blood glucose. A blood glucose test can verify this issue.

    Taking a blood glucose test is especially important for people with diabetes who wake up with a headache in the morning, as it can be a sign of nocturnal hypoglycemia.

    The ADA recommend that people with low blood sugar consume 15 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose before rechecking levels after 15 minutes.

    Once blood sugar returns to the target range, the headache pain should reduce.


    How Do You Treat A Headache Caused By Hypoglycemia

    Diabetes And Headaches | Can Diabetes Cause Headaches | Hyperglycemia

    Headaches are a common symptom of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and can come on suddenly.

    If you suspect that your headache is the result of low blood sugar, check your blood sugar to confirm that this is the case before attempting to treat your headache.

    People with diabetes who have headaches when they wake up may be experiencing nocturnal hypoglycemia. If a blood sugar test indicates that you are experiencing a headache as a result of hypoglycemia, the American Diabetes Association recommends consuming 15 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose and rechecking glucose levels after 15 minutes. If blood sugar is still too low, consume another 15g of carbs, being cautious not to consume too much. If you eat too much to treat low blood sugar, you may risk binging and end up chasing high blood sugar as a result. Using this method, the headache should subside once your blood sugar levels return to the normal range.

    Also Check: What Happens If A Diabetic Eats Too Much Sugar

    How To Tell If You Or Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes

    With Ilana Halperin MD and Elena Christofides MD

    Type 1 diabetes is a permanent condition. That means youll likely have to deal with symptoms at least a few times in your life, no matter how diligently you monitor your blood sugar. Were here to empower you with clear answers to all your pressing Qs.

    Maybe It’s A Different Type

    If you or someone you know is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but isnt responding well to the typical treatments for type 2 diabetes, it may be worth a visit to an endocrinologist to determine what type of diabetes is happening. Generally, this requires antibody tests and possibly the measurement of a C-peptide level.

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    Type 1 Diabetes Treatment: Artificial Pancreas

    Researchers are developing an artificial pancreas. This device is a combination of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system controlled by a computer program. The goal for the system is to have a device that mimics the function of a normal pancreas.

    Additional Information on Diabetes

  • James M. Bell/Photo Researchers Inc
  • Medical RF.com
  • How Does Hyperglycemia Cause Headaches

    Why Does Diabetes Cause Headaches?

    As noted above, hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels, can cause headaches. People who have not yet been diagnosed with diabetes or who struggle to manage their blood sugar levels can commonly experience hyperglycemia, which can be dangerous if not addressed.

    High blood sugar commonly occurs when an individual does not have enough insulin in their system to cover the carbohydrates eaten to keep their blood sugar normalized. When blood sugar levels are too high, damage to the blood vessels and nerves can occur. If the body is unable to use the glucose in the blood for energy, it starts to burn fat instead, which can cause a buildup of waste products called ketones. This buildup can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which can warrant a trip to the emergency room.

    Most people do not experience symptoms of hyperglycemia until their blood sugar is over 200 mg/dL, and symptoms, including headaches, may be slow to appear.

    Headaches can take several days to develop and are considered a sign of hyperglycemia. If you are experiencing a headache caused by hyperglycemia, it may be a signal that your blood sugar levels are too high.

    Other symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

    • Blurred vision

    • Slow healing wounds

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