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dizziness, dizzy spells, diabetes

Diabetes and Dizzy Spells: What You Need to Know

Have you experienced dizziness with diabetes? You’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about diabetes and dizzy spells. 

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is an uncomfortable feeling that can make you feel lightheaded and off balance, and can even lead to fainting or vomiting. Frequent dizziness is a symptom of another disorder going on in your body, so it’s important to see a doctor if you experience frequent dizziness to get to the root of the problem.

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Why does dizziness happen? 

Dizziness can come about due to many factors, including migraines, medications, alcohol, inner ear problems, or vertigo. In addition, a sudden drop in blood pressure, anxiety, or anemia can contribute to dizziness.

Another main factor that can lead to dizzy spells is having diabetes.

10 Reasons why dizziness happens with diabetes

There are several reasons why you might experience dizziness with diabetes. 

  1. Low blood sugar levels. Also called hypoglycemia, a drop in blood sugar below 70 mg/dL causes brain cells to malfunction, leading to possible dizzy spells. 
  2. High blood sugar levels. Also called hypoglycemia, elevated blood sugar levels over 180 mg/dL can also lead to dehydration and dizziness. 
  3. Low blood pressure. Low blood pressure can occur with diabetes. The force with which the heart pumps blood to the brain can become weak. This can be more risky when standing up quickly. 
  4. High blood pressure. High blood pressure can occasionally come with feelings of nausea, headache, and dizziness. 
  5. Postural hypotension. This happens when blood pressure drops after standing up suddenly after sitting or lying down for a long period of time. Postural hypotension is fairly common in older adults, however it is something to watch for as it can lead to fainting and injury. 
  6. Diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy is a common symptom of diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels cause damage to the nerves which leads to tingling and pain. Another factor of nerve damage is gastroparesis, in which it takes longer for the stomach to digest food. Complications of diabetic nerve damage include pain in hands and feet, erectile dysfunction, UTIs, bowel issues, and eye and heart problems. 
  7. Dehydration. High blood sugar causes people with diabetes to urinate more frequently in order to remove the excess sugar from their body. As a result, they can get dehydrated. Low levels of water can lead to lightheadedness. 
  8. Diabetes medications. Certain medications, such as antibiotics, drugs to lower blood pressure, SGLT2 inhibitors, and diuretics can cause dizziness. Many diabetes medications for lowering blood sugar can also lead to dizziness. Check the information that comes with your medication, and talk to your doctor if you experience frequent dizzy spells. 
  9. Positional vertigo. This is a result of a disturbance in the inner ear, and it can happen when you change the position of your head or move into a new position such as lying down. This is a common condition that is benign. 
  10. Autonomic dysfunction. Autonomic dysfunction can occur when the nerves of the autonomic nervous system become damaged, leading to dizziness, digestive difficulties, tremor, vision problems, and more. 
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When should you see a doctor?

If you are experiencing dizziness, you may want to see a doctor. See a doctor immediately if you are having any of the following side effects:

  • Chest pains
  • Dehydration
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Bleeding
  • Head injury
  • Fever
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Hearing loss
  • Confusion/Altered mental state
  • Vertigo (the feeling that the room is spinning)
  • Stroke signs:
    • Facial droop
    • Weakness in arm or leg
    • Difficulty speaking or comprehending others’ speech

Be prepared

Keep a record of your dizzy spells so that you can report their frequency to your doctor. Check your blood sugar levels frequently and stay on top of highs and lows. Know that there are many factors that can go into blood sugar fluctuations, such as stress, exercise, what you eat, and more. Keep snacks and water handy, tell family and friends what to do in case of an emergency, and wear diabetic identification. 

While sometimes diabetes can lead to dizziness, other times it could be another serious issue that would require seeing a doctor.