Last Updated on Feb 21, 2019

What is Mal de Débarquement Syndrome?

Hippocrates first noted some people developed motion imbalance soon after a sea voyage. In 1881, these symptoms were elaborated based on the drunken-like gait observed in sailors who got off the ship. In 1987, Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MdDS) became recognized through a case series published by Brown and Baloh. The French term ‘mal de débarquement’ literally means the unpleasant or sick (mal) feeling that envelopes a person after disembarking (débarquement) from either a ship or a land vehicle or an airplane following a long journey. This is also called classic MdDS. Spontaneous MdDS occurs due to trauma, childbirth, or surgery.

Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MdDS) is a rare neurological condition where the person experiences a feeling of strong motion (dizziness, swaying or rocking feeling) after a prolonged movement of passive motion. Symptoms can last either for less than 2 days (transient MdD – not a syndrome) or may persist for more than a month and extend for many years (persistent MdDS).

Middle-aged women over the age of 50 years are more prone to developing MdDS. Men are not as susceptible as women to MdDS. Those with MdDS are affected with stress, anxiety, and depression. As a result, their quality of life is reduced.


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