What is Mal de Debarquement?
Also known as Disembarkment Syndrome, Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MdDS) is a rare disorder of perceived movement that most often develops following an ocean cruise or other type of water travel. MdDS has also been reported to follow air, train, and automobile travel, and less commonly after sleeping on a waterbed, and frequent use of high speed elevators. Symptoms usually begin shortly after the cessation of the motion stimulus and are often increased when in an enclosed space or when attempting to be motionless (sitting, lying down, or standing in a stationary position). The motion sensation may seem to disappear when in passive motion such as in a moving car, airplane, or train.
While MdDS most commonly presents itself after travel, for some there is no known motion event; the onset appears to be spontaneous. MdDS may persist for months to years.
Common symptoms include a persistent sensation of motion such as rocking, swaying, tumbling, and/or bobbing. This sensation of motion is often associated with anxiety, fatigue, difficulty maintaining balance, unsteadiness, and difficulty concentrating (impaired cognitive function). Relief from symptoms may be realized when riding in the car or participating in other motion experience. This can be important feature in the diagnosis of MdDS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there other names for MdDS?
MdDS is an abbreviation for Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (a French name) which translates into sickness upon disembarking (leaving a boat or other vehicle). This disorder is also known as Disembarkment Syndrome or colloquially as landsickness. It is less commonly known as Persistent Mal de Debarquement (PMdD) and Rocking Vertigo.
Several years ago, I had MdDS that spontaneously resolved. Will I develop this again if I go on another cruise?
Some individuals who have had MdDS that had resolved subsequently redeveloped symptoms after a subsequent cruise. (However, there are some who did not.) Many describe a more prolonged period of MdDS symptoms with each episode. Therefore, the recommendation is to avoid further cruises to minimize the likelihood that MdDS will recur.
I have MdDS. Will symptoms become worse if I go on a cruise or undertake extended travel by air, train, or car?
Not necessarily. However, some individuals have described a transient increase in symptoms after these type of motion experiences.
When will this be over?
In most individuals who develop symptoms of MdDS following a cruise or other prolonged motion experience, the symptoms of MdDS (rocking, bobbing, swaying) often gradually dissipate and disappear altogether. In general, this is more likely to happen for those who are younger. But, for a few and with age, these symptoms may persist for an extended interval.
Where can I go to get diagnosed?
This is sometimes difficult since many health care providers are unaware of MdDS. A list of possible providers is available on this site.
Is there a cure?
Is there a treatment which reduces symptoms?
Some are benefited with medications and vestibular rehabilitation therapy. And, a regular exercise program seems to help many.
Are MdDS symptoms worse during a woman’s period (menses)?
Many women experience increased symptoms before or during their menstrual cycle. MdDS is more common in women than men (9:1) and seems to be more common in perimenopausal (middle-aged) women, however, the role of hormones in the exacerbation/remission of MdDS symptoms is not understood.
Are there any clinical trials/research studies being conducted on MdDS?
This is a rare disease and research studies are similarly rare. To our knowledge, there are only two active research studies on MdDS. One is being conducted at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) by Dr. Yoon-Hee Cha. The other is underway at Ohio University by Dr. Brian C. Clark. Both of these studies are funded, in part, by this Foundation.