A headache is a common complaint among all age groups. It is when we feel pressure or throbbing pain in our head or face, which may be accompanied by a tingling sensation.
A headache may occur because of several reasons, such as:
A headache often does not result from a serious medical condition. So, resorting to a pain killer for relief becomes a general practice. But some headaches may either originate from a serious illness or indicate one. Headaches are generally classified based on the cause and fall into either of the two buckets – Primary or secondary.
Primary headaches, also known as vascular headaches, happen when the brain cells, nerves, blood vessels, or muscles around the head send pain signals to the brain. These occur independently of any medical condition. Migraine and tension headaches classify as primary headaches. But if a medical condition causes a headache, it will be called a secondary headache. Some of the causes could be – diabetes, fever, injury, high blood pressure, anxiety, etc.
High blood sugar or low blood sugar can trigger headaches in people with diabetes. These can range from moderate to severe and occur frequently. If blood sugar is high, the condition is called hyperglycemia; if blood sugar is low, it is called hypoglycemia.
In hyperglycemia, the blood glucose is higher than 100 milligrams per deciliter when a person is fasting and 140 mg/dL after 2 hours of eating. Most people who have high sugar levels do not feel any symptoms. Often, the symptoms appear slowly. A headache caused by a high sugar level usually takes several days. Headaches are one of the indications of hyperglycemia. As the condition worsens, the pain becomes severe. Other indications of hyperglycemia are:
Since the blood sugar is high, the body focuses on getting rid of the excess sugar through urine. With every instance of urination, the body loses water. This results in dehydration which eventually leads to a headache. Therefore, the higher the intensity of hyperglycemia, the more dehydration of the body, resulting in higher susceptibility to headaches.
In the case of hypoglycemia, the blood sugar level is below 70 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia symptoms occur early as compared to hyperglycemia. Apart from headaches, some of the symptoms are:
With such a low blood glucose level, the brain is deprived of glucose. This leads to a headache that feels like throbbing in the temples.
Abbott Optium EZ Blood Glucose Test Strip
Below are some ways to get relief from a hyperglycemia headache:
A person with low blood sugar needs to monitor blood sugar levels regularly. Sometimes, hypoglycemia can cause a person to faint. It is advisable to carry a snack at all times for precaution. There is also a 15/15 rule one must keep in mind. Whenever the headache occurs, monitor your blood sugar level immediately and if it reads low, eat 15-20 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose tablets. Check your glucose level again after 15 minutes. Once the sugar level stabilizes, the headache might reduce automatically. If it does not stabilize, repeat the process.
It is not always the case that a headache is caused only because of diabetes. There may be many reasons, like stress, lack of sleep, etc. But if you experience headaches often, it is advisable to get your blood sugar tested.
Maintaining healthy levels can avoid many complications as well as unwanted headaches. You should also be aware of healthy blood sugar levels and work toward them. If the headache is because of a high blood sugar level, it is important to keep the body hydrated. Regular blood sugar monitoring is vital if the headache results from low blood sugar.
Improving lifestyle, following a diabetic diet plan, and exercising may help treat diabetic headaches. If the headache persists despite all the efforts and medication, you should reach out to your healthcare provider to identify the cause.
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Akanksha Nigam has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. With a Masters Degree in Finance, she began her Marketing career in the banking industry. However, her interest in human ...
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