Donna D'Errico discusses her son's "debilitating" migraines

06/27/2008 at 04:00 PM ET

DonnaDonna D’Errico is not only a model and actress, but is also a working mother dealing with similar issues to many of our readers. The 40-year-old’s son Rhyan is a talented teenager, but is dealing with "debilitating migraines," she revealed. Donna posted on Donna’s Rocketship explaining her 15-year-old son’s situation and asked readers to share their experiences.

Donna says that while he has "been accomplishing so much lately" he is struggling with these headaches, even after seeing a pediatric neurologist. 

Composing on the piano, being awarded his black belt, and this past Saturday was his first day at a big-time acting school in Los Angeles!All of these accomplishments are even more incredible when you take into account the health problems he has been having to deal with.

While the doctor put him on medication, he was unwilling to use the term migraines to classify Rhyan’s condition. He is also having problems with his septum and nose and will need surgery to correct it. However, some of the problems may also be attributed to allergies. Donna is asking for anyone who knows a good natural-remedy allergist in the LA area to please put forward suggestions. Donna ended her entry with the following:

In doing research, I found something called Juvenile Angiofibroma that strikes 15-year-old boys. It presents with constant nosebleeds, obstructed airway, and headaches! But the doctor said that according to Rhyan’s CAT scan there are no tumors. Just putting this out there in the hope that someone out there might have some insight into this or help for us!!

Donna also has a daughter Frankie-Jean, 7, whose father is Nikki Sixx, while Rhyan is from a previous relationship.

Source: Donna’s Rocketship; Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

If you know anyone in a similar situation or with a similar condition please share your experience in the comments and we will pass them along to Donna.

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emmy on

I was diagnosed with ” infantile migraines” when I was 4 months old after doctors were convinced that I had a brain tumor. I am now 24 years old and have had the same type of migraines ever since. It is beyond frustrating to have problems like this that do not show up on a CAT scan. When they did an MRI of my neck and head they did find a few abnormalities that explained what section of my brain and nerves were affected by the migraines. I’m not sure if you have had that done with your son, but it is worth a shot. The doctors told me that I would just grow out of it as I got older and they were partially right. I only get migraines that knock me out a few times a year and I got prescribed a high dose of imitrex and a painkiller to help with those. Speaking of natural remedies, lavender is always a healing herb. I did find when I drank lavender tea when I felt the onset of a headache that it numbed the pain slightly. Good luck to you and your son and I wish you both the best of luck!

Meghan on

My Husband was recently diagnosed with “Cluster” headaches which he developed as a teen and has been plagued with for 15 years. He had several MRI’s and scans and everything came back normal,he has suffered terribly because his condition was misdiagnosed as migraines and the Doctor’s would always send him home with migraine medication which does absolutely nothing for Cluster sufferers. Cluster headaches cause immense pain and are very debilitating and most commonly effect the male gender. Maybe Donna should check into the possibility of Cluster headaches.

kate on

After reading the last comment, I would highly suggest a Chiropractor. All the nerves in your body are connected to the spine and when your spine is correctly aligned, your body can work properly. My husband is a chiropractor and our two year old son is adjusted regularly and has never had an ear infection and is rarely sick. My husband has amazing success stories with migraines and other maladies. Getting adjusted is a natural, non-medicated way to become well instead of just treating or covering up the symptoms. Of course, she will have to find a good Chiropractor, just as you would want to find the best pediatrician. All my best to Donna and her son!

Nikki on

i think what Donna needs to do is to get a specialist at Mass General here in Boston, they’ll be able to throughly diagnosis and treat his head, because it sounds like that the pediatric doctor is just brushing them off instead of properly treating the boy, Mass General has one of the top fields in neurolgy and can do so much more

ShopLittleGifts on

Sometimes accupuncture helps to increase blood and oxygen flow or help to balance hormones. But it may take a couple sessions to find out where the blockage is or what’s causing the blood flow to constrict. Hope he feels better soon.

Chrystie Delancey on

I am a 30-something woman who has suffered with migraines without aura for about 17 years.

I have tried just about every preventative drug, every pain reliever, and every abortive (Zomig seems to work the best for me). I have also tried chiropractic treatment to no relief. I have not tried acupuncture, though some people have great success.

I used to have great success with the preventative amitriptyline until I started to try to have a baby, so I quit it.

Herbs such as feverfew work for some people, but you need to try it for at least 3 months to see if you benefit. I have never tried it, but my body doesn’t seem to react beneficially to herbs.

I recently completed a 2-month long “elimination diet” recommended by the book “Heal Your Headache the 1-2-3 Program” by dr. David Buchholz. While I learned that my diet was not causing my migraines, I did learn that some of the foods I ate could be triggers depending on the level of my other triggers (i.e., stress, hormones, barometric pressure, ANY change in the weather, etc.).

I do not consume caffeine, so that wasn’t a problem, but some of the foods I ate contained MSG. One might want to eliminate that from their diet. It is almost always found in foods that are more savory than sweet and goes by several other names or chemicals (such as Carageenan, natural or artifical flavors, etc.) that cause the MSG reaction in the brain.

The book does a great deal of outlining all of these triggers and the course of action. If anyone wants additional information – I am happy to share.

As for me, I am pretty much convinced that it is my hormones and only my hormones that are causing my thrice-monthly migraines.

The thing with migraines is that there isn’t always a cure but you should be able to live your life with them and to be able to control them – be it with diet, exercise, medications, etc. I average 1 to 2 missed days of work a month due to mine.

Also, the book advocates exercise, but it sounds like Donna’s son already gets that.

But if he is a typical teenager, she might want to check his diet (soda, snacks, etc.)

Sorry for my thoughts to be out of order. It also sounds like Donna’s son has a lot on his social calendar these days which may be too much for a 15-year-old to juggle along with school?

The thing about migraines is they are usually hereditary. The only person who suffers them in my family besides me is my maternal grandmother.

Donna needs to make sure they are truly migraines and not cluster or tension headaches as others have suggested.

Also, sometimes you need to get a second opinion. It has been my experience that I actually know more than the neurologists I see because I do the research. Most doctors just prescribe medicine that is given to them by the drug companies. I had one doctor that always tried to put me on Amerge (great drug) but my insurance never covered it. He never gave me enough pills for my cycle so it was a waste of time and I left him and went to another neurologist who peformed not only MRIs but blood tests and urinalysis for tumors, lupus, thyroid, etc.

A word of caution, I would strongly advise against trying Topamax. It did nothing for me but give me symptoms of over things like allergies and chest pain and made me space out.

Chrystie Delancey on

I also wanted to add this for Donna, she may want to get a second opinion about the surgery.

The book I mentioned talked about people who were misdiagnosed as having a deviated septum and received surgery when they were really migraine sufferers who did not require surgery.

Harley on

Migraines run in my family, including with me. I started getting them at 14 and had them anywhere from 4-10 times a month. I finally had a neurologist put me on Neurontin 4 years ago at age 20 and it’s a freakin’ blessing. I was on Midrin to combat the migraines at onset after finding out I had bad reactions to triptans (Imitrex, etc.). Now, they tried me on a blood pressure medication but that just knocked me flat on my backside. Just remember that it can take time to find the right medication or the right combination for the body as everyone is different.

I can’t help with the allergist or diagnosing the nose bleeds but I do recommend at least speaking to the physician about a prevention medication.

Molly on

Have you tried acupuncture? I used to have migraines but it helped me so much I don’t have any more. Also look into Ayurveda, cause his body may be in some level of inbalance. Keep us posted!

katie Hoffman on

I have had the same condition, I am 16 and I get extreme headaches. I have had every kind of test imaginable but they only thing that they have been able to come up with is Neuro-Induced Syncope. It is a condition that gives extreme headaches,drop in blood pressure and fainting spells with exercise. It can sometimes lead to nose bleeds.

hope it helps
email me if you need anymore info.

Cindy Cairns on

My 10 year old son also has migraines. This condition does run in our family. We are using medicine to help him when he starts with the ‘warning signs.’ We also started watching his Gluten. I am aware that some foods can trigger headaches and someone mentioned that gluten could be one of them. In no way are we ‘gluten-free’ but I think that we have cut back tremendously and we have seen some positive results. May I also add that it might help to get a second opinion from another doctor. Good luck!

mary on

My 13 year old son was diagnosed with stomach migraines at the age of 2. At the age of 6 he was put on beta blockers and if we could not rid the migraine he went to the er and was given morphine. Now he can take nasel spray zomeg. Which if he takes on the onset he can rid of the migraine, most of the time. Now our 7 year old is on beta blockers because he to gets migraines. My whole family has them and when my little babies get them it hurts me so much. I passed that on to them.

stéph on


For how long has he been having those headaches?

I am seventeen now but when I was 15 I had headaches like this too. I had a brain scan, because my doctor thaught it was a brain cancer , I saw a neurologist and a psychiatrist and my headaches started last year in March and it ended in July 2007. It was apparently caused by HIGH stress. Because in March, my mother got sick, she had headaches for 3 days, and then me and my sister got this too and for us two it didn’t end ’til July. The doctorS (because we saw many) found it really strange cause we both had it. Apparently we got sick and then we were both going on trips with school for two weeks, me in Italy and my sister in Scandinavia, at the same time, and during that time my mom went to Dominican Republic and when we came back the headaches were so strong that me and my sister couldn’t go to school and we were late in our work so apparently it’s all that that caused the migraines to continue.
The fact that all three of us were in three different places in the world and not knowing how the others are doing everything, also caused the migraines to continue and while I was in Italy I lost 8 lbs because I wasn’t hungry and if I ate, then I would be sick. So if your son doesn’t eat a lot either, maybe it’s just like what I had.

All the stress and when summer finally arrived and we rested for maybe a week, not doing anything, the migranes went away.

So if it’s only migraines that started recently or during a moment of stress for your son, maybe it would be a good idea to try to get all the responsibilities off his shoulders for a couple of weeks and he’ll get better, but if it’s something that lasted for years, then I don’t know but maybe it’ll work. Just to relax and have nothing to do and maybe have fun with his friends and nothing stressing, no responsibilities and just rest.

Maybe the fact of starting acting achool, the award and the piano, could have all made the migraines continue.

Hope your son gets better!

Sarita on

I have been having terrible headaches that last all day and end in vomiting for a few hours since I was 23. For me it’s a combination of stress, hormones and nutrition, I believe.
I have never had any tests done, my doctor said it’s migraine and gave me Maxalt Smelt tablets. They help but the first hour after them I feel a lot worse.

I also think it might be this boyys schedule, maybe it’s too much for him.

T on

I agree accupuncture worked for my non migrained headaches. Also my brother used to get migraines as a teenager when he’d become overheated. He started seeing a chiro for adjustments and things eventually worked themselves out. But everytime he’d physically exert himself in the heat the Chiro said its like his thermostat in his body clicking off and not working properly to cool him down therefore the adjustments at the Chiro would help put things back inline for him. It sounds like Ryhan’s are more severe however I thought I’d make this suggestion in hope of helping someone. 🙂 Best of Luck & God Bless.

WD on

My son, who is now 14, has had migraines frequently since he was a baby. It wasn’t until a few years ago that we figured out that it was a magnesium deficiency caused by the asthma medicine he has been taking all of his life. No one ever mentioned to me that most asthma medications strip the body of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is the #1 cause of migraines. We started him on over the counter magnesium and B2 supplements a few years ago and now he gets maybe one headache a year.

Jb on

Get him tested for celiac… and then do an elimination diet. My mom had migraines her whole life. She always thought it was her sinuses. She had pain behind her eye. I had digestive problems, when I realized it was gluten and that I had celiac disease my mom decided to try the gluten free diet.. her migraines went away. I started to develop migraines a couple years after going gluten free. I thought it was a sinus problem also- even had cat scans. Finally after years, I realized I had food sensitivities and through trial and error I learned if I simply avoid certain food I could avoid this pain. So simple but no doctor could help me with it ( not even doctors that are supposed to specialize in those disorders) Also these days many doctor’s are still not that aware about celiac disease/and food allergies and the different side effects they can cause. Best of luck!

Julie on

When my brother was in his very early 20’s, he came down with debilitating headaches. This was preceeded by a week long fever and flu. He had to take a year off university to stay at my mom and dad’s so my mom could care for him and take him to his doc appts. They did every test imaginable. After a year and a half of these terrible headaches, they concluded that he had had the flu virus and it settled in his frontal lobe and the headache specialist at Henry Ford hospital classified it as a “biological headache”. Not migraines. Every month, he was on different meds, they finally hit on Zoloft. He was on Zoloft for 5 months, he was weaned off after 5 months, and the headaches were gone.

Jenn on

I suffered crippling migraines and Topamax has been my saving grace over the past few years. It does take some time to get adjusted on it but it has given me back my life that was once riddled with migraine pain. I also use Frova as needed which is another migraine med that has been super helpful to me. I mean no disrespect but I think that everyone reacts differently to different medications so it’s not fair to say “stay away from Topamax” because you had a bad experience with it. It may work wonders for someone else just as it has for me.

Laurie on

Topamax has given my son a healthy life back after over half a decade of migraines, starting at age 10. I homeschooled him three of those years in part because it was so difficult for him to lead a normal life. He started Topamax a year ago and then started high school last fall. He had perfect attendance. A miracle for him. He finally feels like a normal kid again.

Other medications did nothing for him — there are many factors involved and everyone reacts differently.

Nicole on

I do not know if anyone else has mentioned this, but I have dealt with debilitating migraines and am a chronic sinus/allergy suffer and I would recommend both Magnesium *I take 400 mg a day* for my migraines- I had been on high doses of Topamax, but found that if I missed one dose I would have a horrible migraine. I also recommend Quercetin w/ Bromelain which will help with the sinus problems *it specifically states that it helps support Healthy Histamine levels and manage seasonal discomforts* I personally take 1600 mg a day *the recommended dose* and it has worked wonders for me. I also recommend seeing a acupuncturist, I recently started and after only 2 sessions I have seen a dramatic difference. Check a local vitamin store for further assistance or anyone who practices Holistic Health and Wellness/Chinese Medicines, etc. I hope this information helps and good luck.

sadye on

Have him tested for Lyme Disease. It’s WAY under diagnosed and when my sister was 14 she got it and presented with migraines and cluster headaches.

Katie on

I feel bad for anyone that has “true” migraines. I have been suffering from them since I was about 13 and I am now 29. I have the aura, sensitivity to light and sound and also severe vomiting for about 7-8 hours. Oh, and head pain that makes you want to jump out a window! Now I NEVER thought I would get rid of migraines, which were truly debilitating. But I went on Prozac after my first child was born and I have not had one since. I went on Prozac because of my horrible hormones and depression, but it ended up being my saving grace. I don’t want to be on it forever, but I also can’t live my life waiting for my next migraine, especially with a 2 year old.

J's Mom on

I started to have migraines in my mid-20s and found relief with Imitrex Nasal (I couldn’t keep down any pills during a migraine). In 2002, I mentioned the migraines to my OB-Gyn, who uses a holistic approach to treating patients. She first ordered a functional intracellular analysis to test for nutritional deficiencies, explaining that many health issues are caused by such deficiencies. Also, even though I didn’t plan on having children for a few years, my doctor advised me that I should take steps to address any nutritional deficiencies well in advance of trying to conceive.

From the test results, I found out that I had a number of nutritional deficiencies, including a calcium deficiency, which my doctor suspected caused or contributed to the migraines. I was surprised about the calcium deficiency because I consumed above and beyond the daily RDA of calcium each day by eating dairy products. Anyway, my doctor prescribed specific vitamins (vitamin quality makes a difference) and also directed me when to take each vitamin (for excample, you shouldn’t take iron and calcium supplements together). I also became more mindful of what I ate so that I was getting most of my nutrients through food, rather than supplements. I had one more headache within the first month or two of addressing my nutritional deficiencies. That was in early 2003 and I haven’t had another one since.

I’ve since made it a habit to have the functional intracellular analysis performed as part of my annual OB-Gyn exam. My doctor uses Spectracell’s FIA test, but I imagine there are other tests out there. I think that Spectracell offers a special rate if your insurance will not cover the cost of the testing.

glycofamily on

I’m so sorry to hear about these headaches. Migraines are completely miserable and no one can really understand the pain unless they”ve dealt with it>

When I worked with a pediatric neurologist, he would always say, “the gut is the body’s 2nd brain” and strongly encouraged dietary aids to help cleanse the gut.

I have definitely connected my migraines with dietary triggers. For some reason, I still catch myself testing the foods and will occasionally eat the bad guys that send me on a migraine trip (MSG & refined bleached flour are biggies.) Once I feel it starting, I take several rounds of fiber & digestive cleansing supplements and try to induce bowel movements (TMI? LOL) I also drink lots and lots of water because even urinating helps flush things out. I also take a good antioxidant supplement in larger tha nbottle recommendations to help with the oxidative stress caused by this bad food. And I second the recommendation of a CHIROPRACTOR! In my case, the trigger foods are causing a chemical reaction of sorts within my body and there are gasses building up inside of me. This puts pressure on my upper neck areas and will cause me to get out of alignment. The chiropractor can help release that buildup of gasses (the popping sound of an adjustment) and will get me back in alignment.

I will also say there is definitely a connection to hormones as well. There is a stress added to the liver during hormonal times (monthly, for example) and the liver is less able to handle the stressor foods when it is dealing with regulating other hormones. Phytosterols are HUGELY beneficial for supporting hormonal functions…including helping the liver.

Hope this helps in some way!

Bek on

glycofamily – That is what happened to my grandfather. He had terrible headaches his whole life, from a young kid through the army and finally into his older years. Finally, I don’t know why it took so long but a doctor finally looked at him, checked everything and it turned out he had this benign tumor growing in his stomach. They removed it and almost half his stomach and his headaches went away. Very interesting.

Anyway, I wonder if she’s taken into account the weather and air? I live in Wisconsin far away from the massive smog of the LA area but one day while in a small town mind you, I got this MASSIVE headache. My entire head hurt, light hurt my eyes, I got dizzy, I was throwing up and finally I went to the ER. They said that a few people had been into the ER with headaches and really didn’t know why. The next day or a couple days later, my mom found out that the air quality that day was extremely poor and there were quite a few cases of people with extreme headaches going to the ER. If he has allergies, combined with the possible poor air quality that could maybe do it.

I also agree with maybe going to a chiropractor. I’ve got neck problems that stem from a car accident when I was a toddler and also from cracking my neck from a young age. I don’t personally see a chiropractor, but I gently crack my own neck. If I go days with cracking it, I get severe headaches and as soon as I crack my neck, my neck and head start to feel better.

There are so many things that could be wrong, could not be wrong. The human body is so amazing, but I (as well as my mom) know what Donna is going through. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus, but it took almost 2 months from the first time I experienced excruciating pain that said something was terribly wrong to be diagnosed. The first thing to do was find a good doctor. My original doctor, the man who delivered me, said I was basically crazy and a bad child looking for attention, I wasn’t sick and recommended that I see a psychiatrist. My mom was VERY upset by this but still took me. I remember specifically one day we were driving to see the psychiatrist and I cried, saying I was really sick and I needed a real doctor, not some head person. So we turned around, went back home, canceled the appointment and the next day we went to the UW-Madison Children’s Hospital. There we found an immunologist who ordered many many MANY tests and within a month and a half, I was diagnosed with Lupus. It’s a very hard battle, when you know you are sick but there isn’t anyone listening or trying to help. That’s when you need to take charge and just push through and search. There are good doctors out there, you just have to grab the bull by the horns and be your own boss. Do your own research for doctors and/or the medical problem, but don’t freak yourself out or get paranoid. My mom did that. She went to the library (this was back in 1995 before a computer in every home :lol:) and she narrowed my illness down to either Lupus or Leukemia. She figured it out a good week before my real diagnosis and for those few days, she was in complete hysterics thinking I’d probably die before my 13th birthday. So don’t do that!

I hope Donna finds what she needs and her son gets relief.

amy on

I suffered with severe migranes from about age 9 to my late teens, I’m glad to say i gradually grew out of them and I now maybe get one a year now at age 28. I had them every month between these years, i had to lay in dark rooms and they made me sick. Hopefully he may grow out of his like me

Andrea on

I have a 21 year old brother who constantly suffers from migraines. I had to take him to the ER last week becuase he had a temp of 101, had sensitivity to light, and his head and neck were throbbing with pain. The DR said he had symptoms of meningitis so he did a CT and a lumbar puncture. He didn’t have a brain tumor, bleed in the brain, or meninigitis but he did have an elevated opening pressure when he was doing the lumbar puncture. There are conditions that cause an elevated pressure; 1 is called pseudo tumor cerebri. There isn’t a tumor, but the brain acts like there is. The next step is taking my brother to a neurologist to see what they can do about the condition. He doesn’t have nosebleeds that I know of, but this may be something you could check out. Email me if you have any more questions about it.

Chrystie-Delancey on

I forgot to mention that one might want to try keeping a headache diary.

It sounds like such a simple thing and I scoffed at the idea myself for years, but it helped me immensely and I saw a definite pattern between the migraines and my cycle and my stressors.

Nadine on

My husband has been having migraines since he was about 12 years old.
Violent head and neck pains, blurred vision, vomiting. It takes about six hours for one to pass.
He tried various medications, prescribed by his doctors and neurologist.
He eventually tried acupuncture, he was desperate to find something that worked. After two sessions per week, for 3 weeks, he started having less frequent migraines, only about 1 every two weeks.
After 3 weeks he went once a week. He kept this up for two years and the migraines started getting less severe, no more vomiting.
He still has the visual disturbances and headaches, but he doesn’t have to lock himself in a dark room for 6 hours.
He also started seeing a chiropractor twice a month and the had and neck pain has also lessened.
So I have to conclude that he is doing a lot better, unmedicated with the help of an acupuncturist and chiropractor.
Good luck to anyone who suffers migrains they are debilitating.