Understanding Diabetes and Dizziness

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Identifying the Source and Treating Feelings of Dizziness

If you’ve ever felt suddenly unsteady, lightheaded or faint, you’re not alone. Dizziness is one of the many symptoms that plague diabetics, and though it may not be as pressing as a hypoglycemic episode or neurological emergency, you shouldn’t ignore your dizzy spell.

So, what causes dizziness? Dizzy feelings start in the brain, but the brain isn’t always to blame. In fact, dizziness can be a consequences of a variety of malfunctions, from blood pressure to oxygen levels. Learn where your dizziness may be coming from, and how you and your doctor can stop it for good.

How Diabetes Can Leave You Lightheaded

Your body relies on a balance of chemicals, hormones and nutrients to stay energized and to function well. Diabetes interferes with a number of natural processes (most notably, your ability to metabolize glucose), and that can throw things way off balance.

Dizziness is a sign you may need to pay more attention to managing your diabetes symptoms in order to restore the harmony between all the systems in your body. In many cases, a lightheaded, dizzy or faint feeling can be traced to:

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Hypoglycemia

Low blood sugar is one of the most common causes for dizziness among diabetics, but luckily, it’s quite treatable. The problem stems from a lack of glucose in your brain, which causes it to malfunction.

Getting a burst of sugar into the bloodstream with a glucose tablet or sugary food should take care of the dizziness. When the faint feeling comes with sweating, confusion, and lack of muscle control, it’s a serious situation that demands quick and aggressive treatment.

Hyperglycemia

When your blood sugar climbs too high, your body tries to get rid of the excess glucose through frequent urination (polyuria), and that loss of fluid can lead to dehydration. Once your cells are dehydrated, your brain can’t function efficiently and you begin to feel weak and lightheaded.

Low Blood Pressure

Many diabetics also have trouble controlling their blood pressure. When the blood pressure in your arteries lags, your heart can’t pump blood to your tissues and organs as efficiently as it should.

In turn, your brain doesn’t get the oxygenated blood it needs and you become dizzy or lightheaded, especially if you stand up quickly.

Medications

Dizziness is a pretty common side effect of medications, including drugs used to treat diabetes. If you’ve recently started on a new medication, check the information pamphlet for possible side effects.

You may also need to meet with your doctor to discuss other medication options.

Dizziness can stem from a variety of sources, and sometimes it can point to a serious underlying condition. If you’re feeling dizzy often, and you believe you’ve been keeping your blood sugar under good control, it’s time to check in with your doctor to rule out inner ear disorders, brain abnormalities or neurological disease.

Preventing and Treating Dizzy Spells

A little dizziness may not seem so bad, but it can lead to problems for some diabetics. Those with peripheral neuropathy are at greater risk for falling, and if dizziness becomes a persistent problem, that risk goes even higher.

Injury isn’t the only concern when it comes to dizziness — it’s also just plain uncomfortable! The more often you’re hit with dizzy spells and the more unpredictable they are, the less confidence and control you’ll have in your daily life.

It makes good sense to take the right steps to prevent dizziness from interfering, and getting back on track when you begin to lose your balance.

Control Your Condition

It may be an obvious statement, but it’s important to manage your diabetes as best as you possibly can. This means you need to stay on top of your blood sugar levels with regular testing, but also make all the necessary lifestyle changes that keep your body in good working order.

Exercise is crucial when you’re living with diabetes, but too much too soon can be a shock to the system. If you find you’re getting dizzy during workouts, don’t push through it — instead, slow your pace and focus on your breathing.

Couple a regular exercise routine with a healthy diet to control your blood sugar naturally.

Adjust Your Medication

Whether you rely on insulin injections or oral medication to manage your diabetes, don’t assume you’ll always need the same dosage. As your diabetes progresses or new symptoms manifest, you may need to add, increase, decrease or substitute certain medications to stay in control.

Since it’s near impossible to readjust your medication based on feeling alone, be sure to visit your doctor for regular check-ups on your current management plan. After discussing your symptoms and taking some tests, your doctor can adjust your medication to suit your current level of health.

Keep Good Records

Managing any chronic disease requires some time, effort and preparation. So, although it’s important to react swiftly and appropriately if a problem pops up, don’t simply forget about the issue once you bring it under control. Instead, jot down details to help you find patterns, and communicate better with your doctor.

Use a journal to keep a record of your dizzy spells — when they happen, how long they last, and whether or not you experience any other simultaneous symptoms — so you can look back on it when you need to.

Remember, nobody’s memory is perfect, and it’s a lot easier to diagnose and treat based on solid evidence (in this case, your notes) than on your memory of the event.

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