Khloe Kardashian opened up about her decades-long experience with migraines.
The Keeping Up with the Kardashians star said her condition took years to diagnose, and that they can leave her bedridden for a day or more.
At 36, Khloe’s migraines are triggered by stress, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, and they impact her ability to care for daughter True at times.
When Khloe Kardashian was in the sixth grade, she began experiencing debilitating headaches that would leave her bedridden for hours. At just 12 years old, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star was told by her family and friends to push through it.
“I vividly remember how I felt, but mainly I remember how everyone told me that I wasn’t feeling what I felt. People would always say, ‘Oh, it’s just a headache,'” Khloe tells Prevention.com. “That’s the stigma with migraines, that it’s just a headache. And being 12 years old, and at that time no one in my family experienced migraines, I was embarrassed to say when I was suffering from one.”
As a result, the reality star didn’t speak up about her pain for a long time, and her migraines continued. “I would just be incapacitated in bed,” she says. “I would not be able to lift my head up, and being that young, it was scary.”
At 16, Khloe finally decided to seek help after one of her mom’s friends, who also suffered from migraines, encouraged her to see a neurologist. She underwent brain scans and they ruled out some “really scary things,” Khloe says. “But I was diagnosed with migraine.”
Contrary to popular belief, migraine is actually a classified disease, and it’s quite common in the U.S. “Migraine occurs in 40 million Americans. Patients experience debilitating headaches and symptoms that may include vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, and smells, and vertigo to the point that it interferes with everyday life,” says Bruce Kudrow, M.D., a neurologist based in California. “It’s an all encompassing phenomenon that’s not always predictable.”
For Khloe, the intensity of her migraine symptoms are particularly erratic. Some days, she’s completely blindsided. “I’m just wiped out and those are the worst,” she says. Other times, she experiences extreme sensitivity to light and scent. Another migraine will bring on vision impairment, violent nausea, and uncontrollable shaking. “It’s so scary,” she says. “Especially when you’re around someone that’s never seen someone go through that, they get really worried.”
What her migraines do have in common? How terrible they make her feel. “The pain is completely unbearable. Walking to your restroom or just to get a cold compress is, for me, agony,” she says. “It’s like a hammer is just hammering every step. It’s insane.”
And, just like the uncertainty around her symptoms, the Keeping Up with the Kardashian star says her migraine triggers are also unpredictable. “I wish there was more of a pattern for mine,” she says. The reality star said she’d underwent allergy testing and ruled out food and chemical triggers. She also gave up dairy, but more for her overall health. According to Kudrow, migraines do not always have clear triggers, but some may include red wine, high altitude, skipping meals, jet lag, stress, lack of sleep, and certain dietary substances like nitrates.
In the spring, Khloe had 12 migraines a month for three consecutive months, prompting her to get more brain scans to rule out other conditions. Fortunately, they were clear, but she also said the coronavirus pandemic may be to blame for elevating her condition. “During the first month of quarantine, I didn’t work out. I think we were all kind of just scared and trying to figure it out,” she recalls. “I noticed that I was getting them more and it could have been the stress, but also not working out.” Since exercise is a stress reliever for her, the Revenge Body star said physical activity usually helps to keep her migraines at bay.
And while Khloe is known for her very big, very famous family, the isolation that has come with the pandemic has also made it difficult to manage her migraines and parent her two-year-old daughter, True. “During the pandemic, you’re alone with your kid and you have no real support system,” she says. “She [True] is just two, so it’s not like she’s going to remember, ‘My mom was a bad mom and laid on the floor while I was playing.’ But there have been times when I’m in her playroom and have a migraine, and I will just lay on the floor. She’ll say, ‘Mommy, play,’ and I can’t explain to her that I can’t. I just put guilt on myself. I think any new mom would do that.”
Fortunately, Khloe has found a way to manage her migraines after all these years. Khloe takes Nurtec OTC (rimegepant), a new FDA-approved medication that provides acute relief for migraines. (She is a spokesperson for the brand, which provided the opportunity for this interview.) She also finds relief in staying in a dark room with a cold compress when a migraine develops.
Kudrow says the best way to approach the treatment and management of migraines is by avoiding triggers. “If it’s a dietary trigger, avoid that food substance. If stress is your trigger, try to destress,” he says. “And once that’s optimized, you can either seek acute treatment at the onset of a migraine with medication, or you can take a preventative medication on a daily or monthly basis.” Over-the-counter drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or ibuprofen can help with acute relief, he says. If you think you’re suffering from migraine, consult with your doctor before taking medication.
The biggest misconception with migraine, Kudrow adds, is that people underestimate the fact that it is a debilitating condition. “It’s the second leading cause of disability,” he says.
“People think they’re really just a bad headache and brush it off. And that makes people almost either defensive or feel shameful or almost question what they really have,” Khloe says. She partnered with Take Back Today, a campaign and an online community where migraine sufferers can connect about their experiences and find support. “You can go there and talk to people that are suffering from migraine, and you don’t feel so alone,” she adds.
With Nurtec OTC and Take Back Today, Khloe feels like she can really be there for True, especially during the added stress of the pandemic. “Being able to still take back my day and go and be a good mom again, I mean that is so beneficial,” she says.
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