Dizziness is one of the symptoms you may experience if you have diabetes. It could be caused by high blood glucose levels.

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The level of dizziness can vary, from mild lightheadedness to feeling like the ground beneath you is tilting. Some describe the experience as if their head is spinning, even though they’re standing still.

This can leave you feeling unsteady or cause you to fall or pass out.

Although dizziness can also result from sudden drops in blood pressure and heart or circulatory conditions, this article will focus on dizziness resulting from high glucose levels and what you can do to address this health concern.

According to 2018 research, dizziness can be a symptom of undiagnosed diabetes or a symptom for those who already live with the condition, no matter the type of diabetes you have.

If you’re living with diabetes already, it can be a sign of either high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It can be difficult to know how to respond to dizziness, depending on whether your blood sugar is high or low.

For people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes but may be experiencing dizziness, this can be a symptom of undiagnosed diabetes. In this case, you may want to reach out to a healthcare professional for an evaluation and diagnosis.

High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can lead to a number of symptoms, including dizziness, according to the American Diabetes Association. That range of may include:

  • feeling very tired
  • extreme thirst
  • blurry vision
  • needing to urinate (pee) more often
  • sweet smelling or “fruity” breath
  • increased hunger
  • headache
  • stomach aches
  • vomiting
  • unexplained weight loss

Dizziness can be caused by excessive urination when your glucose levels are too high. Urination is one of the ways the body rids itself of extra glucose in the bloodstream. Ultimately, this can cause dehydration and lead to dizziness.

People who do not have diabetes, or those who may be undiagnosed but experiencing high blood sugar symptoms, can also experience this dehydration effect. Being dehydrated from excessive urination can lead to dizziness.

How to treat hyperglycemia

For people with diabetes, it’s advisable to try the following if you’re experiencing higher blood sugars that may or may not be causing dizziness:

  • Drink water or hydrating liquids to help flush out excess glucose.
  • Physically move around after checking glucose levels.
  • For insulin users, consider taking a dose of regular or fast-acting insulin to help lower glucose levels.

Extremely high glucose levels (above 240 milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL) can indicate diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA), which can cause diabetic coma and requires immediate medical attention. In the instance of DKA, physical exercise can actually drive glucose levels higher.

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Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugars (70 mg/dL and lower) can also cause dizziness.

When the brain experiences low glucose levels, it doesn’t receive enough fuel to function as it should. This can lead to mental confusion as well as feeling dizzy.

This effect can be experienced by people with type 1, type 2 diabetes, or LADA (latent autoimmune diagnosis in adults). It’s also possible for people without diabetes to experience hypoglycemia, which includes dizziness as a symptom.

How to treat hypoglycemia

For people with diabetes, it’s advisable to try the following when experiencing low blood sugars that may or may not be causing dizziness:

  • Treat the hypoglycemia by bringing glucose levels up: A standard response is to use the rule of 15. Eat or drink 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates (such as ½ cup of regular juice, or 3-4 glucose tabs). Then wait 15 minutes to check your glucose levels again. Repeat as needed until glucose levels are above 70 mg/dL.

When glucose levels are extremely low (less than 55 mg/dL) or don’t respond to the 15-15 treatment, a dose of glucagon may be needed. If glucose levels don’t respond to glucagon or no glucagon kit is available, you may need medical attention.

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Generally, an occasional dizzy spell that goes away quickly on its own is not a source of concern.

But if bouts of dizziness become a regular experience or don’t go away easily, you may need to consult with your doctor or healthcare team.

Persistent dizziness can indicate a serious health concern, including cardiovascular disease and circulatory conditions.

Dizziness can also cause you to fall, leading to injury or accidents. Injuries caused by dizziness can lead to additional negative health effects, according to 2014 research. Researchers note that this is especially a concern for anyone with weakened bones or a health condition that causes their body to take a longer time to heal.

Something as simple as standing up too quickly and experiencing a slight drop in blood pressure can cause dizziness. This type of dizziness corrects itself quickly and is generally not a concern.

Aside from hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, dizziness can also be caused by dehydration and overheating.

Persistent dizziness can be a sign of a more serious health concern, for people with and without diabetes. Those other health concerns may include:

Dizziness also raises the risk of falls, according to 2020 research. This can lead to broken bones or other injuries. And feeling dizzy while driving or operating heavy machinery increases the risk of having an accident.

Dizziness with diabetes can be a sign of high or low blood sugar, but it can also signal something more serious.

Knowing what to look for can help uncover when dizziness is caused by diabetes and how to treat it, versus when it might be a more serious health concern that you should seek medical attention to help address.