Have you ever gotten off of a boat and felt like you were still on it? You can sense the waves moving up and down and back and forth even though you’re standing on dry land.
Now imagine that you have that sensation all of the time. It never goes away. You can’t think properly, you feel woozy, and maybe your head hurts.
So you go to your doctor who says your exam and all of your tests are normal. He doesn’t seem to know what’s causing the problem.
That’s because neither of you tied the symptoms back to that all-day boat ride you took on your last vacation.
“Welcome to the world of someone with Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS),” says neurologist and scientist Yoon-Hee Cha, M.D., a principal investigator at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research and Assistant Professor at the University of Tulsa who studies the biologic basis of the disorder.
MdDS or “sickness of disembarkment” usually starts after exposure to a period of motion. And it is not limited to being on a boat. It can occur after a plane flight or even after a long road trip in a car.
But unlike typical motion sickness episodes, MdDS can last for months or even years.
MdDS is rare, which may be why doctors often fail to recognize it or confuse it with vertigo or other disorders that cause dizziness.
The typical patient is a middle-aged woman, but men can also be affected. Aging of the brain, hormonal changes, and stress are all thought to contribute to the triggering of episodes.
Dr. Cha says it isn’t completely clear why the brain gets stuck producing the annoying sensations of rocking vertigo and imbalance, but there is some evidence that the brain’s connections to spatial processing areas are altered in MdDS.
Medications such as benzodiazepines and some types of antidepressants may ease symptoms, but if the symptoms don’t resolve within a few months, the chance of a complete remission are low.
If you would like to learn more about MdDS, here is a link to Dr. Cha’s article on The Doctor Weighs In.
For more information about Dr. Salber, please visit her at https://thedoctorweighsin.com/
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