Diabetes is a long-term metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels (glucose). This results in a slew of symptoms and problems, some of which are potentially fatal. A diabetes headache is a prevalent sign of high or low blood glucose. Headaches aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, but they can indicate that your blood sugar is out of line. Diabetes may be to blame if you get constant headaches.
A headache is, unfortunately, a common thing for many individuals. Headaches are exceedingly frequent, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that over half of all individuals would experience a headache in a given year.
There are numerous distinct forms of headaches, spanning from migraines to tension headaches to cluster headaches — and sometimes even “ice cream” headaches caused by unusually cold food or drink. Sinus infections, high blood pressure, and medicines can all cause headaches. Headaches are more likely in people with diabetes. Given the variety of causes for headaches, it’s no surprise that so many individuals have them.
Can diabetes cause headaches
Headaches aren’t experienced by everyone with diabetes. Since they are still attempting to balance their blood sugar levels and find a routine that works, people who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes may feel headaches more frequently. Although headaches are less common in older people than in younger people, they are nonetheless a reason for concern. Although the frequency of headaches declines beyond the age of 40, estimates in adults over the age of 50 range from 12 to 50%, and frequent headaches are observed in up to 17% of people over the age of 65, compared to 6% in those under the age of 65. 1,2 In persons over the age of 65, the risk of a subsequent headache with potentially fatal consequences increases tenfold.
Variations in blood sugar levels are the most common cause of headaches in diabetics. A headache can be a sign that your blood glucose levels are excessively high, a condition called hyperglycemia by experts. Hypoglycemia is a term used by doctors to describe when blood glucose levels are too low.
Changes in hormone levels, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, may cause headaches that a person can link to these oscillations. These hormones may induce discomfort by constricting the blood arteries in the brain. Both adults and children suffer from headaches. In reality, headaches are the most common cause of discomfort. They’re also a prominent cause of school and work absences.
Broadly, headaches can be classified as either primary or secondary:
- Primary headaches: These are headaches that are not caused by some other medical issue. Migraines and tension headaches are examples of primary headaches.
- Secondary headaches: These headaches are caused by underlying medical disorders or health difficulties. They include the types of headaches that diabetics may suffer, and it may be called diabetes headaches.
- The intensity and severity of discomfort from either primary or secondary headaches can fluctuate. Some individuals do not get headaches very often, while others get headaches several times a week.
- Depending on the sort of headache a person has, other symptoms may develop. Migraines, for instance, can cause nausea as well as increased sensitivity to noise and lighting.
- Diabetes headaches are usually mild to strong in intensity. A strong headache interferes with a person’s capacity to return to normal function in daily life.
Secondary headaches can be caused by a variety of factors, including diabetes. Other factors to consider are:
- high blood pressures or hypertension
- worry or stress
- hormone variations, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle
- eye issues
- structural abnormalities inside the brain
The discomfort linked to secondary headaches varies, just as the reasons do. Diabetic headaches can range from mild to severe, and they’re believed to happen frequently. These headaches could indicate that your blood sugar is either high or too low. The very first approach towards relief would be to get your blood sugar levels under control. Second-line pain medications, including such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may be beneficial.
Hypoglycemia and headaches
Hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, is described as a blood sugar level of less than 70 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia signs, unlike hyperglycemia, are usually abrupt. When your blood sugar drops, you may get headaches that appear out of nowhere. Headaches are frequently associated with other hypoglycemia indicators, such as dizziness, unsteadiness, excessive perspiration, unexpected hunger, impatience, nausea, tiredness, lethargy, panic, or disorientation.
To manage a headache caused by hypoglycemia, you must first evaluate whether the reason is low blood glucose. If your blood sugar is poor as a result of a blood glucose test, it is believed that eating 15 to 20 grams of simple carbs or glucose tablets and monitoring your level again within 15 minutes. Your headache discomfort may lessen once your blood sugar levels have stabilized.
If the pain is severe, you may also need to take over-the-counter pain relievers. If your headache is serious or you can’t get your blood glucose back up, see your doctor straight away. Hypoglycemia, if remains unaddressed, can result in life-threatening consequences such as seizures and coma.
How to treat headaches in diabetes patients
Headaches are caused by a variety of factors, including diabetes. If you have diabetes, your odds of getting headaches are likely to be higher than if you don’t. This is especially true if you have uncontrolled diabetes. You’ll experience very few headaches and other diabetic symptoms if you keep track of your glucose levels. If your headaches don’t go away regardless of your diabetic treatment, see your doctor straight away.
Confirming that the pain is caused by low blood glucose is the very first step in treating a diabetes headache. This can be confirmed with a blood glucose test. A blood glucose test is particularly crucial for diabetics who wake up with a headache in the mornings. People with low blood sugar should eat 15 grams of simple carbs or glucose before carefully checking their levels after 15 minutes, according to the American Diabetes Association. The headache pain should subside after your blood sugar levels return to normal.
Headaches can indicate periods of high or low blood glucose, which can result in life-threatening problems if not treated. Individuals with diabetes who suffer from regular headaches should seek medical advice. If any of the following symptoms appear, call a doctor right once:
• A severe headache interferes with daily activities.
• Blood sugar levels don’t really return to a safe level.
• Along with headaches, other chronic or severe symptoms appear.
Headaches are not experienced by everyone with diabetes, and diabetes is not the main cause of headaches. Individuals with diabetes who regulate their blood sugar levels and handle their diabetes efficiently are much less likely to suffer from headaches. The best strategy to prevent headaches and other diabetic symptoms, as well as more serious problems, is to avoid hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
If a person’s headaches are intense or persist despite maintaining optimal blood sugar levels, they should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.