Medically reviewed on February 15, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Diabetes is one of the most common conditions in the United States. In 2018, the American Diabetes Association estimated that about 34.2 million Americans (10.5 percent of the country’s population) had diabetes. Of those, about 7.3 million people were undiagnosed. About 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year .
Part of what makes diabetes challenging to identify is that it can come with a wide array of symptoms. Some of these symptoms, including headaches, are easy to shrug off or can be mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. Learn more about diabetes symptoms and headaches below (and consider learning more about the at-home HbA1c Test).
Diabetes involves blood sugar and how the body responds to it. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin to transfer blood sugar to the cells. On the other hand, with type 2 diabetes, the body does not know how to use insulin properly .
While both types have their distinctions, both types of diabetes essentially lead to a buildup of sugar in the blood. That can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including:
With type 1 diabetes, these symptoms can come on suddenly and rapidly. However, those with type 2 diabetes may not notice any symptoms until the disease progresses to more severe stages.
Before having diabetes, there’s an initial stage called prediabetes. This is when the blood sugar level is higher than usual but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. There aren’t any obvious signs of prediabetes, but prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes if blood sugar levels remain elevated. Additionally, prediabetes can be reversed in many cases if certain dietary and lifestyle changes are implemented.
Headaches come in so many different forms, from tension headaches to cluster headaches to migraines. They can be due to various causes, like sinus infections, insufficient sleep, and certain medications.
If you have diabetes, you may experience headaches more often that are more severe. Much of this is due to fluctuating blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can contribute to headaches [4, 5].
Diabetes commonly contributes to sleep problems, particularly sleep apnea. Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder that is characterized by blocked upper airways during sleep. That can cause frequent sleep disruptions that can extend to problems in your waking life, including headaches. However, poor sleep can lead to more severe side effects, like a higher risk of heart problems, high blood pressure, and strokes . Nocturnal hypoglycemia can also cause diabetes headaches, triggered when there is too much or too little sugar consumption.
Headaches on their own may not be something to worry about, but if you experience persistent headaches with no identifiable cause, consider taking an HbA1c test with Everlywell, in which you’ll be given results that are healthcare provider-reviewed and easy to understand.
1. Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
2. Diabetes Overview - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment. American Diabetes Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
3. Type 1 Diabetes - Symptoms. American Diabetes Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
4. Hyperglycemia in diabetes. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
5. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood sugar). American Diabetes Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
6. Sleep apnea. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.