What is mal de debarquement syndrome?

Mal de debarquement syndrome, also known as disembarkment surgery, is a neurological disorder that is characterized by the feeling that you are rocking or swaying, without any cause to feel this way. Although, mal de debarquement syndrome can be managed, there is not a cure.

Common related conditions
Balance Disorders

Causes of mal de debarquement syndrome

Mal de debarquement syndrome frequently develops after a cruise or water travel. It can also develop after:

  • Air, train or automobile travel
  • Riding an elevator
  • Walking on docks

Although most cases of MdDS occur after an episode outlined above, some cases appear without a motion event. Secondary factors that can cause your symptoms to reappear include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Flickering lights
  • Moving fast
  • Being closed in
  • Playing video games

Risk factors for mal de debarquement syndrome

Although mal de debarquement syndrome can affect men and women of all ages, it is more prevalent in women between the ages of 30 and 60.

Symptoms of mal de debarquement syndrome

If you have mal de debarquement syndrome, you may feel like you are constantly rocking, swaying or bobbing without a reason to feel this way.

Secondary symptoms of MdDS may include:

  • Depression
  • Feeling confused or having anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing

Symptoms may subside when riding in a car or a train, but they may come back when you stop moving.

Diagnosis of mal de debarquement syndrome

Mal de debarquement syndrome is a rare condition that may take time to diagnose. In order to rule out other conditions, your doctor may order the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Hearing test
  • Brain scan
  • Nervous system exam

Patients who have experienced symptoms for more than a month without any clear diagnosis may be diagnosed with mal de debarquement syndrome.

Treatment of mal de debarquement syndrome

If you are younger, symptoms associated with mal de debarquement syndrome may go away on their own. For other patients, mal de debarquement syndrome is challenging to treat.

Treatments may include:

  • Brain stimulation therapy — new therapy that uses electrical signals to transforms how the brain works.
  • Medications — used to treat secondary symptoms such as depression, anxiety and insomnia may be effective in some cases.
  • Vestibular rehabilitation — exercises that help you feel steadier on your feet.
  • Lifestyle changes — exercising, managing stress and resting can help relieve symptoms.

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