Is Your Diabetes a Pain in the… Head?

Is Your Diabetes a Pain in the… Head?

An Explanation of the Diabetes Headache

Is your head pounding or do you feel more of a dull roar? Is the area under your eyes sore? Is just seeing light bothering you? Determining what kind of headache you have now can go a long way to preventing them in the future.

While diabetes itself can cause headaches, there are also many other culprits that could be at the root. Let’s take a look at a few of those now.


Changes in weather have long been known to cause headaches. Whether it’s a drastic temperature change or an oncoming storm, many people swear by the fact that these atmospheric changes cause them headaches.

The “weather headache” is actually believed to be caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals, particularly serotonin.


Hormones also play a part in headache pain. In females this is particularly true as estrogen controls chemicals that are responsible for pain sensation in the brain.

A drop in estrogen can trigger a headache. These drops can occur due to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, perimenopause or menopause. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies can play their part in headaches as well.

Lack of Sleep

Not enough sleep can cause an increased expression in the proteins that regulate chronic pain and in the facial nerves that play a role in migraines. Many people that suffer headaches have a hard time sleeping yet that lack of sleep can actually cause a headache. This catch-22 makes for tough times.

Too much sleep can also cause a headache so it is suggested to keep a similar sleep pattern, even on the weekends.

Sinus Problems or Allergies

Recent studies show that true sinus headaches are rare and most people that complain of them are actually getting migraines. As sinus cavities swell, shrink or become inflamed by irritants, they can be the cause of headache pain when there is a bacterial infection in the sinuses.

Allergy headaches are fairly common and usually consist of pain in the front of your head along with pain in the face, ears or teeth. By finding out what the allergy is and treating it, you can help alleviate allergy related headaches.


It’s a well-known fact that dehydration can cause headaches. Your body is made up of nearly 60 percent water, so staying hydrated is vital to keeping it functioning correctly.

It is thought that when your body is lacking in water, it can cause a shrink in brain volume. This then pulls the brain away from the skull triggering pain. Dehydration is also a symptom of diabetic sugar issues, as you will see below.


Stress has long been known to be a cause of headaches. These headaches are usually physically caused by the tightening of muscles in the back of your neck and scalp, teeth clenching, skipping meals, taking certain medications and sleeping/sitting in an awkward position for too long.

How Does Diabetes Cause a Headache?

The main cause of a true diabetic headache is a rapid rise or fall of your blood sugars. When your blood sugar has a rapid drop, your brain senses that it doesn’t have enough glucose to function properly and the blood vessels in your brain can then spasm; thereby causing a headache.

When your sugars quickly climb too high, you will feel that familiar lack of concentration and sluggishness (like a food coma). If this goes on too long, your body will try to eliminate excess sugars through increased urination and this can cause dehydration. And, as we know, dehydration can cause headaches.

How Do We Treat and Prevent These Headaches?

  • Over-the- counter painkillers can help once the headache has started. If the headaches are frequent, you will want to talk to your doctor about stronger medications and the possibility of any other underlying factors that could be the cause.
  • Ice packs can also help once the headache has already begun.
  • Keeping hydrated is a great way to help ward off headaches. Be sure to get the proper amount of water each day. Eight glasses is still considered to be the minimum amount of water needed per day. But, remember, if you are in hot weather or exerting a lot of energy during exercise or sports, you will need to consume more than that.
  • If you think your headache is due to hyperglycemia and your sugars are over 240 mg/dl, it would be a good idea to call your doctor and check in. You may need some adjustments in your diet or medicines.
  • For low sugar headaches, it helps to keep a few hard candies available in case you need a quick jolt. If you are a person more prone to low sugar issues than you are high sugar problems, talk to your doctor about keeping an emergency glucagon kit on hand.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise not only helps keep your blood sugars in check, but it can help cut down on stress in case that is the underlying factor of your headaches.
  • Follow your diet. The best thing to do to keep diabetic headaches at bay is to follow the proper diabetic diet. Your doctor and/or a dietician can help you determine the best diet for you.

We know that having type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming at times and that there can be a lot to remember. The key to maintaining your health with diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels as even as possible throughout the day and that’s no exception when it comes to preventing diabetic headaches.

Once you have a good plan in place for doing that, you will find that you will have many more headache-free days.


Diabetic Connect (Why Does High (or Low) Blood Sugar Give Me Headaches?)

WebMD (Tension Headaches)

UHN Daily (Dehydration Headache: Know the Causes, Signs, and Treatments)


Rebecca PaciorekRebecca Paciorek

Rebecca Paciorek has both type 2 diabetes and asthma. She doesn't "suffer" from them though as she likes to live life to the fullest. Her degree is in Communications from Miami University and she owns a digital media agency, Blue Dot Digital Communications. Rebecca, her husband and their teenage son are “foster failures” of a shelter dog named Lucy. Rebecca enjoys reading, travel, outdoor events, movies and hanging out with friends and family.

Dec 13, 2016
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