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Diabetes and Headaches - What’s the Connection?
According to the World Health Organization, headache disorders are one of the most underestimated and under-treated conditions worldwide. There are many triggers for developing a headache, and blood sugar is one of them. A diabetes headache may start as a regular pain. But, if the frequency increases, it is advisable to get your blood sugar levels checked. The dull, throbbing sensation in your head may be the beginning of a hypoglycemia headache or a hyperglycemia headache. Dive into this article to learn more about high and low blood sugar headaches, and how you can manage them.
Table of Contents
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches fall under two main categories - the primary (caused by overactivity of the pain-sensitive nerves of the head and neck) and secondary (related to an underlying medical condition). Diabetes headaches are the second type. Why does diabetes cause headaches? Fluctuations in blood glucose levels are the main reasons behind this. Hormonal changes due to shifting sugar levels affect your brain activity, which manifests as headaches. Here are some more reasons for the stimulation of pain signals in the head:
- Stress - Anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns result in a strain that may induce headaches.
- Health issues - Medical conditions like cold, ear and throat infections, sinusitis, fever, high blood pressure, or structural abnormalities in the brain can be direct causes.
- Blood sugar levels - Can high and low sugar cause headaches? The answer is yes. Sugar levels outside the target range may result in head pain.
- Family history - Diabetes and migraines may be genetic. Most persons with migraines have someone in the family with the same condition.
- Immediate environment - Allergens, smoke, strong smells, noise, pollution, and weather may trigger a splitting headache.
- Dehydration - Insufficient fluid intake causes tissues of the brain to shrink. It puts pressure on the nerves, leading to a pulsating ache. Read more about diabetes causes.
Hyperglycemia occurs when a lack of insulin results in excessive sugar levels in the blood. A sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, obesity, and stress are the risk factors for hyperglycemia. Symptoms include fatigue, hazy vision, dehydration, slow-healing wounds, and even headache. Hyperglycemia headaches are gradual to manifest, though not uncommon.
What causes hyperglycemia headaches? Blood sugar level fluctuations directly affect the brain and the pancreas, leading to deficient insulin production. High sugar levels cause hormonal changes that alter blood vessel behavior in the brain, causing ‘sugar’ headaches.
Treating Hyperglycemia Headaches
The key to a successful hyperglycemia headache treatment is the proper management of blood sugar levels. Follow these steps to avoid hyperglycemia headaches:
- Regularly exercise and follow a healthy diet.
- Prescription medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen provide instant relief.
- Drink more water to eliminate excess glucose.
- Take magnesium supplements as they are natural remedies for headaches, and they also bring down sugar levels.
- Acupressure is an effective hyperglycemia headache treatment strategy. Also read about uses and side effects of sugar tablet.
Hypoglycemia is the condition when sugar levels in your blood drop dangerously low. It is induced by skipping meals, an overdose on diabetes medication, consuming alcohol, or heavy exercise. The symptoms range from profuse sweating, fatigue, nausea, weakness, and confusion to dizziness and headache. Hypoglycemia headaches are low blood sugar headaches that feel very similar to migraine pain. Diabetes and migraines are often associated with reduced blood sugar levels.
What causes hypoglycemia headaches? Insulin overdose and long periods of fasting that accompany hypoglycemic episodes trigger headaches. How does low sugar cause headaches? Low sugar levels deprive the brain of its primary source of energy - glucose, which decreases its functioning. This manifests as a throbbing pain in the temples, and migraine. Individuals with diabetes and migraines exhibit a slow hypoglycemic recovery phase.
Treating Hypoglycemia Headaches
A low blood sugar headache typically occurs on one side of the head, just like a migraine-induced pain. Follow the below-mentioned steps to get immediate relief from hypoglycemia headaches:
- Consume fast-acting carbohydrates.
- Eat a protein and carbohydrate snack.
- Over-the-counter glucose tablets also help.
- Keep tracking your blood sugar levels.
- Consume half a banana or half a glass of fruit juice to restore electrolyte balance immediately and stop the headache.
Preventing Diabetes Headaches
Managing diabetes is itself a mammoth task. Nobody wants the additional complication of high and low blood sugar headaches. Here is a list of ways you can avert them instead of consuming over-the-counter painkillers.
Keep your blood sugar levels in check
Take your insulin doses on time and avoid getting your body into hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic shocks. Maintaining regular glucose levels helps reduce incidences of diabetes headaches.
Increased activity will help overcome insulin resistance, leading to better blood sugar management. A regular exercise regime thus helps prevent chronic headaches.
Take care of your diet
Eat a balanced diet free of unhealthy fats and processed foods. It helps in avoiding obesity and promotes healthy blood circulation, decreasing the likelihood of a sugar-induced headache.
Lower fluid content concentrates glucose levels in the blood. Replenish yourself with sufficient water and fluids to avoid headaches induced by dehydration.
Maintain your blood pressure
Limit alcohol and nicotine consumption to keep your blood pressure levels at a normal range. This way, your insulin sensitivity also increases, reducing the chances of a low blood sugar headache.
Diabetes headaches, though relatively common, must not be ignored if they happen too frequently. Your healthcare provider should be informed to prevent further complications. Proper diabetes management through medications and lifestyle changes provides extensive relief from sugar-induced headaches. Also know about ayurvedic medicine for diabetes.
1. Which Type of diabetes causes headaches?
Prediabetes, and types 1 and 2 diabetes may cause headaches due to faulty blood glucose control. Diabetes and migraines have been traced to impaired insulin sensitivity.
2. What does a diabetic headache feel like?
A diabetes headache feels like a slow, pulsating and painful sensation starting from the temples and gradually spreading over the neck region. It can last for a few hours or a few days.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.