When we think about the ill-effects of sugar, we usually think about our expanding waistlines or cavities. However, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can also lead to headaches. Did you know that having poor blood sugar can cause headaches? Noticing these headaches can help you take preventative measures against these life-threatening complications. But when it comes to identifying the signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar headache, not everyone knows what to look for.
Continue reading to learn more about diabetes and a low blood sugar headache.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF DIABETES?
According to a study done by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about 30 million people suffer from diabetes. You may be wondering “What is diabetes?” Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to regulate blood sugar (glucose) through a hormone known as insulin. As time goes on, diabetes can lead to severe complications such as kidney failure and heart disease.
There are multiple variations of diabetes with the most common being type 1 and type 2. While there are many theories and suggestions, there is no definitive cause of diabetes. However, many doctors suggest that both genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of diabetes.
TYPE 1 DIABETES
Type 1 diabetes is what causes your immune system to destroy the cells that produce insulin. Due to this, you’ll be left with very little to no insulin and the sugar that goes to the cells end up going into your bloodstream.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes is a bit different than type 1. Instead of your immune system destroying the insulin-producing cells, they become resistant to it. As a result, your pancreas becomes unable to produce enough insulin to fight off the resistance. And similar to type 1, all the sugar is directed into your bloodstream rather than the cells.
DIABETES AND LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Now that you know what diabetes is, let’s go into more about how it correlates with headaches. To start, not everyone who has diabetes is going to experience headaches. However, people who have been recently diagnosed with diabetes may have headaches as they find a way to manage their blood sugar levels. For other people, headaches can occur due to the changes in their blood sugar.
In the context of diabetes, a headache may be an indication that the glucose levels are too high. The higher a person’s glucose levels are, the more likely they’ll experience headaches. On the other hand, headaches may also occur when a person’s blood sugar levels are too low. This is known as hypoglycemia.
Knowing what hypoglycemia is and how it causes low blood sugar headache is the first step to preventing one. Doctors believe that hypoglycemia occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels are lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter. This is a very severe condition as glucose is the main source of fuel for most of the cells within the body, including ones in the brain.
As for the symptoms, they tend to occur suddenly and are easier to recognize than hyperglycemic symptoms.
The symptoms of hypoglycemia may include:
Increased heart rate
Hypoglycemia occurs when a person takes too much insulin or doesn’t eat enough food. It’s crucial that you carefully manage your diabetes and treat these symptoms as soon as possible. Not only will this prevent you from experiencing headaches, but it will also prevent life-threatening complications.
HEADACHES FROM LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Hypoglycemic headaches are generally described as being dull, throbbing feeling within the temples. In addition, it may be associated with nervousness, blurred vision and irritability. Although it’s a bit rare, hypoglycemia can also trigger a migraine headache. A few people who experienced migraines have reported that they were craving carbohydrates before it hit them. Some doctors speculate that this could be the body’s way of maintaining blood sugar and preventing headaches from occurring.
Interestingly enough, hypoglycemia-induced migraines might not be accompanied by symptoms like sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting. Instead, the migraine is accompanied by the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which are listed above.
PREVENTION OF A LOW BLOOD SUGAR HEADACHE
The best way to a prevent hypoglycemic headache is to keep your glucose levels from dropping. For those who have diabetes, make sure that you follow the management plan your doctor set for you. Always check in with your doctor so they can monitor you for changes that may end up affecting your treatment plan.
Not every case of hypoglycemia is caused by diabetes. If this is the case, then you’ll need to change your diet. Many doctors have suggested for those suffering from hypoglycemia that they eat smaller, but frequent amounts of snacks and meals. Furthermore, it’s recommended that you don’t go over three hours without eating.
Of course, we’re not saying eat anything you can get your hands on. You need to keep your diet healthy. Eating a nutritional, well-balanced diet that’s rich in fiber and protein can make maintaining your blood sugar levels easier. However, foods that contain high amounts of alcohol and sugar should be limited or avoided altogether, especially if your stomach is empty. Lastly, it’s important that you remain physically active.
People with hypoglycemia must always keep a snack and their blood sugar monitor on them. If your glucose levels drop, it’s up to you to get it back somewhere between 70 and 100 mg/dl.
Here are a few ways you can accomplish this:
Consume at least 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate like fruit juice or a piece of hard candy.
Take over-the-counter (OTC) gel or tablets.
Eat something that has both protein and carbohydrates such as crackers, cheese and peanut butter.
If the headache or symptoms you’re experiencing aren’t subsiding by one of these methods, contact your doctor immediately. If the episode you’re experiencing is too severe, go to the hospital. It’s not recommended that you drive yourself as hypoglycemia is known for causing people to lose consciousness. If no one is around to help get you to the emergency room, contact 911 immediately.
If you’re suffering from diabetes and are showing symptoms of hypoglycemia, you must see your doctor. Hypoglycemia can become life-threatening if left untreated. The doctor will investigate the cause and devise a treatment plan that fits your needs.
If you don’t have diabetes but are experiencing hypoglycemic episodes, you need to see your doctor for proper diagnosis. Once you determine the cause, adjust your lifestyle and diet accordingly to keep your glucose levels from dropping.
Living with diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Share this knowledge on social media and let’s win the war against diabetes.