Diabetes-Related Headaches: Causes and Dealing Ways

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood as the human body can’t produce enough insulin from the pancreas, or that the body cells don’t respond correctly to the insulin produced, a situation commonly referred to as insulin resistance. According to the Center of Disease and Control and Prevention, over 29 million people are diagnosed with diabetes in the United States and the number of patients is growing every day worldwide. Diabetes affects almost every organ and body part. But can diabetes lead to headaches?

How Are Diabetes and Headaches Related?

Certain signs and symptoms can help you determine what are the causes of your headache. Based on its cause, the feeling and extent of these headaches will vary.

Hyperglycemic Headache

Hyperglycemia is a condition characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. This is a serious condition which can lead to death when not recognized or treated on time. Constant higher levels of glucose in the blood will damage every human organ over a long period of time, leading to serious complications 10 to 20 years after being diagnosed with diabetes.

Many patients are not able to recognize the signs and symptoms including hyperglycemic headaches even though their blood glucose levels might have been raised considerably. Frequent and painful headaches are one sign of hyperglycemia as well. As the disease progresses and the condition gets worse, the hyperglycemic headaches will get worse too. For this reason, it is very important to closely monitor the glucose levels in the blood and to keep it in the normal range as much as possible with medications, diet, and physical activity.

Other signs of hyperglycemia, besides headaches, include:

  • Thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • An inability for the sores to heal, etc.

Hypoglycemic Headache

Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by low levels of glucose in the blood, lower than 70 mg/dL. It’s one of the connections between diabetes and headaches. The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia occur suddenly and often these signs and symptoms are:

  • Tremendous sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Shakiness
  • Weakness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability, etc.

A headache is also quite often in these cases. In order to avoid hypoglycemia, you should measure the glucose levels in the blood regularly and also eat something sweat immediately. You should check your blood glucose levels about 15 to 20 minutes after eating carbohydrate rich foods. Once hypoglycemia is controlled, the signs and symptoms including a headache will resolve. However, sometimes you might need a pain reliever for your hypoglycemic headache. Remember that hypoglycemia is a serious problem in diabetic patients as it can lead to seizures and coma when not treated correctly and on time.

Neuropathic Headache

High glucose levels in the blood will affect every part of the human body including the nerves. These nerves will get injured and irritated from higher glucose levels, leading to neuropathy, including neuropathic headache.

Glaucoma Headache

How are diabetes and headaches related? Diabetic patients have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, especially those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Glaucoma develops as the result of the optic nerve being too sensitive to high glucose levels in the blood. The pressure in the eyes will increase as well in cases of glaucoma, leading to headaches. Other signs and symptoms that accompany glaucoma headache include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Sharp pain behind the eye and above the eye
  • Halo-like visual phenomena, etc.

When to See a Doctor?

Headaches are an indicator of high or low levels of glucose in the blood. Both these situations can lead to life-threatening complications and for this reason, a person with diabetes experiencing headaches every now and then should go and see a doctor. You should consult a doctor immediately in the following cases:

  • Your blood sugar levels can’t get to their normal or desired levels.
  • You have severe and frequent headaches that impair your daily life.
  • You have other persistent and severe signs and symptoms accompanying headaches.

How to Treat Diabetes Headaches

You already know the relationship between diabetes and headaches, how about treatment? When it comes to the treatment of diabetes, it is very important to control and maintain normal blood glucose levels as much as possible. A regular and frequent checking of the blood glucose levels will help patients a lot.

If you have the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, you should eat something sweet and recheck the blood glucose levels after 15 or 20 minutes. If in the meantime you don’t feel well, don’t wait but seek immediate medical help as hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.

In cases of hyperglycemia you should take your medications that your doctor has prescribed you or you should do an insulin injection just as instructed. If the levels of blood glucose are significantly higher than normally than you should seek medical help.  

If diabetes is the one causing you frequent headaches, then here are some additional ways how you can relieve these headaches:

  • Use over-the-counter painkillers or prescribed painkillers if necessary.
  • Ice packs can help you relieve the pain.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise regularly and stay physically active.
  • Watch what you eat and avoid carbohydrate rich foods as much as possible.

Getting your blood sugar on track is important in order to avoid any fluctuations. This means checking the blood sugar levels regularly, taking your medications regularly as well as injecting the insulin just as your doctor has advised and instructed you.