Mal de Debarquement

cruise ship

A disease called mal de debarquement is caused by ocean cruises. It can also be caused be any other long trip, such as a long car ride, but it is most commonly cruises. The name is French for "disease of disembarkation," as in getting off the ship or plane, or out of the car. The primary symptom of mal de debarquement is the feeling that the person is still at sea. The condition can also cause the cognitive impairment known as "brain fog," or fatigue and trouble concentrating, along with dizziness, headaches, confusion, and often tinnitus and hearing problems.

Although there is commonly a period after getting off a ship or airplane during which a person may experience unsteadiness or confusion, mal de debarquement sufferers have these symptoms for weeks, months, or even years, though with some relief while traveling. In addition, while it can be brought on by cruises or flights, it can also be caused in some cases by high speed elevators or even noting at all. The disease is the result of a neurological disturbance but the exact cause—the reasons travel can cause these symptoms—is unknown, though research points to the inner ear, responsible for balance. It most commonly effects women in their mid-40s, but anyone can acquire the condition.

There is no known cure for the condition, but treatment are mostly about addressing the symptoms; that is the same sort of treatments for any similar movement problem. The common treatments are exercises and physical therapy. Medications that help with balance are effective in patients with this condition. However, motion sickness drugs do not seem to be helpful for mal de debarquement. Even untreated, however, symptoms generally go away on their own. More than half of all cases cleared up within three years.

Researchers have recently found a new type of treatment they say promises to help people with mal de debarquement get their legs back. The treatment procedure aims to stabilize the balance mechanism in the patient’s inner ear by means of rocking movements to help reset the balance reflex. Treatments helped most subjects who were studied in clinical trials with minimal side effects, and the technique is expected to help other patients.

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