About Diabetes & Diabetic Headache

When your body's ability to use or produce insulin gets impaired, it gives way to a disease known as diabetes. Insulin is a hormone which helps the body to use glucose or sugar derived from the food we eat to give us energy or store it for future use. Made in the pancreas, insulin also helps prevent the blood sugar levels from getting both too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia).

There are 2 types of Diabetes. In the Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas in unable to produce insulin without which excess amounts of sugar remain in the blood, become toxic over time and lead to headaches, blindness, neuropathy and fatigue. In Type 2 Diabetes, cellular resistance to insulin occurs in the body and is not diagnosed till severe symptoms such as diabetic headaches start to reveal itself.

Understanding what a diabetic headache or the symptoms of a diabetic headache is not easy and in some cases the patient is unable to bear the pain associated with the same. Let us analyze what a diabetic headache feels like.

What Does a Diabetic Headache Feel Like?

What Does a Diabetic Headache Feel Like?

The cause of the diabetic headache determines its feeling and extent. There are certain symptoms and signs which help determine the type of diabetic headache that you are suffering from. Let us analyze each of these types of diabetic headaches and the feeling associated with it.

Hyperglycemic Headache

High blood glucose of hyperglycemia occurs when there is insufficient production of insulin in the pancreas or the body develops cellular resistance to the same. Occurring in both types of diabetes, it can prove to be fatal for some patients as the high concentration of glucose in the blood can prove toxic for the blood nerves or vessels. The problem with this condition is that many patients are unable to feel the symptoms, including the diabetic headache, even if the blood sugar level rises considerably. Moreover, the diabetic headache and other symptoms develop quite slowly over a period of time.

Getting frequent and painful headaches is an early sign of hyperglycemia. As your condition worsens, so does your diabetic headache. If you experience a headache and are suffering from hyperglycemia, it is essential for you to get your blood sugar level checked immediately.

Other than a headache, here are some of the early signs of hyperglycemia:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Thirst and dehydration.
  • Inability to heal sores.
  • Increased hunger and urination.

Though most people are able to manage and control their hyperglycemia with proper lifestyle changes, healthy eating habits and regular exercise, you may also be prescribed medications to control your blood sugar if need be. As soon as the blood sugar level gets controlled and reaches within the normal range you will experience fewer and less severe diabetic headaches.

Hypoglycemic Headache

When the blood sugar levels drop below 70mg/dL it results in hypoglycemia or low blood glucose. In this case, the symptoms are very sudden which includes headaches that occur all of a sudden as the blood sugar begins to decrease. Other symptoms which accompany this type of diabetic headache are:

  • Shakiness and dizziness.
  • Sudden hunger.
  • Tremendous sweating.
  • Excessive fatigue and weakness.
  • Nausea.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.

These symptoms help you to understand what a diabetic headache feels like and what you may experience with it.

Before starting treatment for a diabetic headache which is caused by hypoglycemia, it is necessary for you to confirm the same. If the test determines that you are suffering from low blood sugar levels, then it is important for you to eat at least 15 to 20 grams of glucose tablets or carbohydrate-rich foods as per the American Diabetes Association. After 15 minutes of eating you should check your sugar level again.

When you treat hypoglycemia, the diabetic headache also gets treated on its own, though in some cases you might have to take over-the-counter pain relief. Hypoglycemia must be treated at the earliest as it not only gives way to the above mentioned symptoms of diabetic headache, but may also cause seizures and even coma in severe cases.

Neuropathic Headache

Neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves get injured and irritated due to the high blood glucose levels. There are several neurons in the brain which also include the larger cranial nerves and all of it can develop neuropathy when the patient suffers from high levels of diabetes. Pounding and severe headaches are one of the most common symptoms of neuropathy. In such a case, a diabetic headache feels like a migraine and can be extremely disabling and intense in nature.

Glaucoma Headache

Several type 2 diabetes patients run the risk of developing glaucoma. It is a condition where the optic nerve gets damaged and gradually leads to irreversible and progressive blindness. This mainly happens because the optic nerve is extremely sensitive to increased blood glucose levels. Since the pressure within the eyes increases tremendously when suffering from glaucoma, it gives rise to severe headache and eye pain. With glaucoma, a diabetic headache has the following associated symptoms as well:

  • Sharp pain behind the eye and also above it.
  • Blurred vision followed by sudden loss of vision.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Halo-like visual phenomena.

Diabetic Headache: Treatment & Conclusion

Now that you know what a diabetic headache feels like, you should remember that the best way to treat a diabetic headache is to control the diabetes in the first place. Other treatment options such as right medications, stress reduction via yoga, Pranayama (deep breathing and relaxation techniques) and dietary changes can also help control the diabetic headache to a large extent. Also, natural remedies such as rubbing natural oils on your temple and forehead, butterbur extract, increased amount of magnesium and drinking chamomile tea for relief can also help control diabetic headache to a large extent.

However, if your headache persists and remains severe even after correcting the high or low blood glucose levels then it is imperative to visit your doctor at the earliest and consult him for the same.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 8, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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