What is Mal de Debarquement Syndrome?
Mal de Debarquement Syndrome or more commonly known as MdDS, is a neurological disorder when one feels a persistent perception of rocking and swaying. The individual experiences a continuous sense of motion when on stable ground. MdDS usually occurs after the person has travelled on a ship, but may occur after exposure to other motion such as plane travel. It is thought that during this period of travel the brain sensitises to the rocking motion, but fails to readjust once back on solid ground. In rare cases, it is spontaneous. It is a chronic, rare and an invisible condition, the prevalence of which is currently unknown. Probably important to note is that is affects a high percentage of women.
The modern scientific study of Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS) began with a study of six patients published by Brown and Baloh in 1987. Though MdDS is still considered to be an uncommon disorder, it is becoming more known and recognised. In a paper it was described as the motion-triggered onset of chronic rocking dizziness, the female predominance, the lack of peripheral vestibular abnormalities, and the improvement of symptoms with re-exposure to passive motion.
Many other clinical features, such as chronic fatigue, cognitive slowing, visual-motion sensitivity, hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli, headache, and anxiety, have since become recognised as part of MdDS.
Over the last 10 years there has been more researchers contributing theories, practical advice, and potential treatments for MdDS. The Internet has been a facilitator of this growth, particularly with the creation of patient groups advocating for further education and research into MdDS, MdDS Australia being among them.
Study and research is still relatively new, but compared to just 5 years ago, when the literature mostly comprised of case reports, there are now more active areas of research that attempt to delve into the biological underpinnings of MdDS. To date, MdDS remains an intractable illness with a progressively lower likelihood of remission as time passes.
Sufferers of MdDS can often experience high levels of depression and anxiety attributable to both the intrusiveness of their symptoms into their daily lives and the social stigma of having a disorder that is not easily understood by the community at large, friends or family, or even by the medical community. Patients with MdDS experience low quality in the physical and emotional areas of life.
In addition to more scientific research and understanding of MdDS, increasing general awareness of MdDS as a neurological disorder is an important goal in increasing quality of life for sufferers of this disorder.