diabetes and migraines

Blood Glucose to Headache Blues

Some people are surprised to learn that there is a strong link between diabetes and migraines. Both of these disorders can be debilitating and challenging and have similar comorbidities and symptoms. Treatment options include medications such as Ubrelvy, used for the acute treatment of migraine attacks with or without aura in adults. This article will explore the details of diabetes, migraines, their link and treatment options.

Drinks to Avoid for Diabetes

Managing diabetes effectively really comes down to paying careful attention to diet and beverage choices. Certain drinks can cause significant spikes in blood sugar levels and should be avoided or consumed in moderation. Some of these drinks include:

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Sugary Beverages

Sodas, sweetened teas and energy drinks are high in added sugars, leading to rapid increases in blood sugar levels.

Fruit Juices

Fruit juices often contain high levels of sugars which can significantly impact blood sugar levels.


Alcohol can interfere with blood sugar regulation. Sweet wines, cocktails and beers with high carbohydrate content are particularly problematic.

Caffeinated Drinks

Some studies suggest that caffeine can affect blood sugar levels.

Understanding Migraines

There is a common misconception that migraines are just headaches intensified–but this isn’t the case. Migraines can last for hours or even days at a time, depending on the severity.

They cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines generally progress through four stages:

  • Prodrome: The prodrome stage of a migraine can occur hours or even days before the migraine itself. Its can include symptoms such as mood changes, food cravings, neck stiffness and increased thirst.
  • Aura: Some individuals experience visual or sensory disturbances, such as flashing lights, blind spots or tingling sensations in the extremities or face, shortly before or during a migraine.
  • Attack: This phase involves the actual migraine itself, often characterized by throbbing or pulsating pain.
  • Postdrome: After the migrain subsides, individuals may feel drained, fatigued or unusually elated for up to a day.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It occurs when the body either does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes require lifelong insulin therapy.

Type 2 Diabetes

This is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. It is often associated with lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of physical activity.

According to the CDC, 38.4 million people in the United States had diabetes in 2021, which is 11.6% of the population. In addition, 38.1 million adults aged 18 years or older had diabetes.

The Link Between Diabetes and Migraines

The link between diabetes and migraines can be complicated. However, there are a few different ways that research has begun to make sense of it:

Blood Sugar Levels

Experts believe that migraines that occur with diabetes may be an indication of something being wrong with blood sugar levels. This can be either low or high blood sugar.


Chronic inflammation is a common factor in both migraines and diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause systemic inflammation, which may exacerbate migraine symptoms. Conversely, the inflammatory processes associated with migraines can impact blood sugar control.

Vascular Health

Diabetes can cause long-term damage to blood vessels, leading to complications such as neuropathy and cardiovascular disease. Migraines are also linked to vascular changes in the brain. The overlap in vascular health issues suggests a potential connection between the two conditions.

Lifestyle Factors

Diet, exercise and sleep are crucial in managing both diabetes and migraines. Poor diet, lack of physical activity and inadequate sleep can exacerbate both conditions.

Sweet Connections

Managing diabetes and migraines requires a comprehensive approach that includes understanding their individual symptoms, treatments and their potential interconnections. By controlling blood sugar levels through diet, medication and lifestyle changes, individuals with diabetes can potentially reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Similarly, adopting strategies to manage migraine triggers, such as stress management and maintaining a regular sleep schedule, may also benefit those with diabetes by promoting overall health and well-being.