Kristin Chenoweth Opens Up About Life With Chronic Migraines

Chronic migraines are just one subset of a neurological disorder many people experience worldwide, but it's one of the most debilitating. Unlike a typical migraine that can last up to an hour or three days, per the Mayo Clinic, chronic migraines occur when you have 15 or more migraines within the space of a month. 

According to the American Migraine Foundation, an estimated 148 million people, including dozens of celebrities, live with this form of migraine globally. Major stars like Serena Williams, Ben Affleck, and Lisa Kudrow have all spoken about their experiences with chronic migraines and how debilitating they can be (via WebMD). 

Kristin Chenoweth is another star with the disorder, having first experienced one in her twenties. She has since campaigned for awareness of the condition (via The Healthy). In a recent interview with Healthline, she discussed the treatments and remedies that have helped her during debilitating migraine attacks.

Kristin Chenoweth thought she was having a stroke when she first experienced a migraine

Kristin Chenoweth had her first migraine when she was 25 years old during the middle of a performance. "At first, I thought something must be wrong with the spotlight. I started getting what I now call 'kaleidoscope eyes,' meaning I see flashes of light, and I couldn't see clearly," she told Healthline. "I also got what felt like brain freeze, like when you drink a slushie too fast, and the music sounded like it had been turned way up." The attack gradually worsened until intermission, when it caused her to suddenly drop to her knees and vomit. By the end of the show, Chenoweth collapsed. "I didn't know where to go from there," she said, after being told by a doctor she'd had a migraine attack. "I was confused, worried, and scared this would end my career." In another interview with Brain & Life, Chenoweth revealed how she thought she was "having a brain aneurysm or stroke."

She also discovered that her mom had them as well, having wondered why she saw her have such debilitating headaches as a child. "Now I have great empathy. For people who have never experienced a migraine, I tell them to imagine a brain freeze and then imagine it not going away for hours, days, weeks." Then, six years after her first migraine, Chenoweth was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, a condition that affects the inner ear and can also cause vertigo and hearing loss (via Women's Health).

Kristin Chenoweth has found a treatment plan that works for her

Dr. Robert Cowan, chief of headache medicine at Stanford University, told Brain & Life that Ménière's disease is often considered "a 'migraine-plus' syndrome," and 35% of those who experience chronic migraines are diagnosed with the neurological disorder, just like Kristin Chenoweth. Unfortunately, according to WebMD, there is currently no cure for migraines or chronic migraines. But there are treatments and remedies to help alleviate the pain. 

For Chenoweth, injections of onabotulinumtoxinA, otherwise known as Botox, have helped significantly. Her treatment plan involves an injection every 12 weeks (via Healthline). Botox is believed to help alleviate migraines by blocking "the pain signal and transmission between the central brain and other structures," Dr. Nina Y. Riggins told Brain & Life. "It works on a deeper level because migraine is more complex than muscle contraction."

In addition to this treatment plan, Chenoweth knows what sights, sounds, and smells can trigger a migraine attack for her. The actress and performer also ensures the cast and crew of the projects she's working on are aware of those triggers. "It feels so freeing to talk about my condition," she said. "Over the years, I've learned how powerful it is to be open about your disease ... I hope that by sharing my experience with chronic migraine, I can inspire others to manage this disease."