Why Does Diabetes Cause Headaches?

Diabetes can seem to have an almost limitless list of symptoms. Now headaches are added to the list. The ebb and flow of blood sugar levels can result in headaches whether sugar is high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia). The mechanisms are different, but the pain is the same.

Types of Headaches

Headaches are the most common cause of the pain experienced by otherwise healthy people, according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Diabetics have also been found to have more frequent headaches than the general population.

Classification Of The Headaches

Generally, headaches are classified as primary or secondary.

A primary headache occurs when neurotransmitters in the brain send signals to certain groups of nerves. Migraine and stress headaches are examples of this type.

Secondary headaches, on the other hand, are the result of some disease or disorder within the body that causes disruption to the nervous system. Diabetes is one of these diseases.

Doctors have not determined the exact process for every different type of headache but they have a pretty good idea of what causes most of them.

Hypoglycemic Headache

Your brain runs on glucose, using as much as 25 percent of the glucose circulating in the body. The brain can sense when there is an inadequate supply. Despite sending off a lot of commands to different parts of the body – to the liver for increased glycogen production, the pancreas for insulin production, and so forth - blood vessels in the brain constrict, or spasm. This spasming can be very painful. Brain cells starved for glucose can also become irritated, causing pain.

Hyperglycemic Headache

When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, the body seeks to get rid of it. The kidneys work harder, pushing out more urine. This increase in urine production can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which in turn can lead to a headache.

Neuropathic Headaches

As with peripheral neuropathy which many persons with diabetes experience in their limbs, there have been cases of neuropathic inflammation of nerves in the brain known as occipital neuropathy. The cause is the same. High blood glucose levels damage nerve endings. When pain cannot be managed by anti-inflammatories or other pain medications, treatment generally consists of nerve blocks with corticosteroids.

Other types of neuropathic headaches can be the result of an optic nerve inflammation or inflammation of various nerve roots such as peripheral nerves and cranial nerves.

Preventing or Treating Headaches

The single best thing to do for diabetes-related headaches keeping blood glucose levels steady. This prevents a lot of the damage that can trigger headache pain.

Over-the-counter pain remedies are generally effective. Resting and restricting activities during a headache can also help. If these actions don’t provide relief, it is appropriate to see a doctor for further help and guidance.

Sources: National Institute of Health, Healthline, Diabetic Connect
Photo: Pexels

Get A Free 7 Day Diabetes Meal Plan

Get a free 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan from Constance Brown-Riggs who is a Registered Dietitian-Certified Diabetes Educator and who is also a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Just enter in your email below to download your free Diabetes Meal Plan.

By clicking Submit, you agree to send your info to InformationAboutDiabetes.com who may contact you with updates and information and we agree to use it according to our privacy policy.

More Articles

Treatment of Diabetes Depends on if it Is Type 1 or Type 2

The treatment of Diabetes depends upon which type of Diabetes a person has....

Having elevated blood sugar can damage our body’s nerves over time.

Diabetic neuropathy is the generic term for all...

Modern fitness culture has popularized a wide range of high-intensity activities, from Crossfit and spin-class to marathon running and exercise...

Depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel sadness and lose interest in activities that you once enjoyed. The symptoms of depression...

There have been numerous studies that have demonstrated the link between gut health and autoimmune diseases, immune system, mental health, mood,...

More Articles

Nerve damage affects about 50 percent of people with diabetes, according to the American Physiological Society. Numbness, tingling and pain in the...

Diabetes has no known cure, but there are many ways to control the disease and prevent the symptoms from interfering with daily life. One major...

There are a host of complications that come along with diabetes of either type. Among them are increased risks for amputation, cardiovascular...

There is no question that people with diabetes need a diabetes diet plans and...

The different sugar content of fruits can be confusing when you are trying to manage your blood glucose. For instance, a half cup of raspberries...

Oil pulling therapy derives from Ayurveda, a holistic healing system developed thousands of years ago in India. Ayurvedic medicine maintains that...

It’s only been recently that doctors, including endocrinologists, have realized the starring role gut microbes play in our health. The unique...

Well-controlled diabetes may depend on medication, but nutrition is perhaps the most important factor. There are many foods that can be added to...

Sleep apnea — a condition that causes shallow or obstructive breathing patterns — is an unpleasant disorder that often goes hand in hand with...

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes difficulty breathing, wheezing, cough, and mucus...

Certain dietary supplements may play a beneficial supporting role in the prevention and management of diabetic neuropathy. Frequently...

Evidence is mounting that consuming black cumin helps to manage type 2 diabetes. The spice lowered blood glucose levels and blocked AGE glycation...

Hot weather does not directly alter blood glucose levels. However, sweltering temperatures affect our metabolism and the release of hormones. Heat...

One way to ensure our body gets a variety of nutrients is eating nutrient-dense foods, and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on our planet is...

Although diabetes is common, many people who have been diagnosed do not completely understand how it develops or whether it is hereditary....