Do Diabetics Experience Dizziness More Than Non-Diabetics?

When an individual has diabetes, some symptoms can affect their overall health. These can come from the condition itself, other health issues, and the side effects of certain medications.

Dizziness is one symptom that diabetics may experience. This can be due to low blood sugar, high blood sugar, low blood pressure, retinopathy, vestibular disorder, medication side effects, or dehydration.

woman with dizziness

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Why Diabetics May Experience Dizziness

There are many reasons why diabetics may experience dizziness, including:

Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

Hypoglycemia occurs when an individual has a very low level of blood sugar.

The brain depends on blood sugar to function properly and as an energy source. The hormones that the brain depends on to raise blood sugar levels are norepinephrine and epinephrine. When the brain doesn’t get enough of these hormones it can’t function properly. This can lead to:

  • Blurred vision
  • Neurological issues
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Hypoglycemia is common among diabetic patients. This can be caused by:

  • Change in diet
  • Exercise
  • Oral medication
  • Insulin
common hypoglycemia symptoms

Verywell / Laura Porter

Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia is high blood glucose. This happens when the body has too much sugar in the blood and there is not enough insulin to distribute the proper amount of glucose that is needed in the blood.

Many diabetics are hyperglycemic. It occurs when:

  • An individual with type 1 diabetes isn’t able to produce enough insulin through the pancreas
  • An individual with type 2 diabetes isn’t producing natural insulin properly to sustain a regular glucose level because the body could be resistant to the insulin

Hyperglycemia can cause many issues if not treated. Complications may include:

  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Damaged organs
  • Eye damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
hyperglycemia symptoms

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Hypertension

If a person has hypertension—high blood pressure—it can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other complications.

If an individual has diabetes, they are twice as likely to get high blood pressure. In addition, individuals with diabetes are four times as likely to develop heart disease than someone who doesn’t have diabetes.

Approximately two-thirds of adults who have diabetes also have increased blood pressure and/or use prescription medication for hypertension. Some symptoms of high blood pressure include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision

This, along with diabetic symptoms, can cause complications.

hypertension symptoms

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Dehydration

There are times when diabetics have excessive thirst. This is due to excess glucose, and the kidneys being overworked to absorb and filter that glucose.

If the kidneys can’t do this effectively, the extra glucose will come out through the urine. This will also pull fluids from other tissues causing dehydration. In turn, drinking more water causes more urination.  

Medications

There are different medications that diabetics take. Some patients have other conditions, and the medication that they take can be for a number of reasons.

If a diabetic patient is on medication for blood pressure or water retention, this can drop both the blood pressure and potassium levels, causing dizziness. Other medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and nonsteroidals can cause dizziness.

Vestibular Dysfunction

Vertigo and dizziness are known symptoms of vestibular balance disorder. This condition is more common as people age.

Individuals who have diabetes have an increased risk of vestibular dysfunction. The condition was found in 53.6% of individuals with diabetes versus 33.2% of individuals who don’t have diabetes. In addition, the individuals with diabetes had:

  • A loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Falls

This condition is usually diagnosed by an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT). It is important to speak with your healthcare professional to understand the condition and get proper treatment.

Treatment and Prevention

To manage diabetes, it is important to work closely with your doctor. Eat healthy, exercise as recommended, and take your prescribed medication.

Also be aware that several conditions that can cause dizziness are related to diabetes. Monitoring blood sugar, diet, and food consumption are helpful factors. Continued conversations with your doctor will help you manage your health the best way possible.

A Word From Verywell

Dizziness can be a scary experience. If you do experience dizziness, don’t panic. The best thing to do is to try to get into a safe position to avoid falling. From there you can call someone to help you if you feel that you need assistance.

If the dizziness is excessive and continuous, avoid driving, using machinery, bending, or moving around too much. It is important to speak with your doctor regarding the dizziness so they can help you determine the root cause and get the proper treatment for prevention.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Hypoglycemia. Updated June 2019.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Hyperglycemia. Updated February 12, 2020.  

  3. John Hopkins Health. Diabetes and high blood pressure.

  4. Hillson R. Dizziness in diabetesPract Diab. 2018;35(2):41-42. doi:10.1002/pdi.2158

  5. John Hopkins Medicine. Vestibular balance disorder.