The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are more than 29 million people in the US with diabetes. Diabetes is a medical condition where our body is either unable to produce enough insulin or is unable to use it properly. This results in an increase in glucose levels in our blood.
Most patients with diabetes do not suffer from headaches but headaches in a diabetic can indicate poor blood sugar control. Blood sugar levels in diabetes must be closely monitored because continuous high or low blood sugar in a patient can lead to other health complications such as heart disease and kidney failure.
There are several ways in which a diabetic patient can relieve diabetes-induced headaches. Headaches are divided into two broad categories: primary headaches which are not linked to another medical condition and secondary headaches which are caused by underlying medical conditions. People with diabetes usually experience the latter.
Diabetes-Induced headaches can occur frequently in a diabetic patient and the pain level can vary from moderate to severe. Keep in mind that every diabetic does not experience headaches but patients that have headaches may be suffered from hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia (blood sugar levels less than 70mg/dL).
Some common symptoms of hypoglycemia include anxiety, chills, confusion, dizziness, hunger, blurred vision, irritability, nausea, lightheadedness, sweating, and tiredness, racing heart, seizures, weakness or unconsciousness. Common symptoms of hyperglycemia include confusion, dehydration, excessive thirst, hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, increased urination and slow-healing wounds.
Diabetes-induced headaches can be relieved through over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen). However, it is best to talk to your doctor before you take any medicine just to ensure that your diabetes has not affected your kidneys.
The best long-term strategy to minimize your headaches is to control your blood glucose levels by practicing good diabetes management. This may include medication and lifestyle changes.
Patients with diabetes should regularly monitor their blood glucose levels. It is also important to eat a healthy diet to limit the intake of sugar. If a patient suffers from a hypoglycemia-induced headache, they should consume 15 to 20 grams of simple carbohydrates and recheck their blood sugar level after 15 minutes. If a patient suffers from a hyperglycemia-induced headache, they should work towards reducing their high blood glucose levels. Patients with Type 1 diabetes should check their urine for ketones as these patients should not exercise but should contact their doctor immediately.