What is Mal de Débarquement Syndrome?
Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MdDS) is a neurological disorder of perceived movement manifesting as a constant feeling of rocking, bobbing, or swaying which seems to be alleviated in passive motion such as riding in a car. This is an important diagnostic feature of the syndrome.
Also known as Disembarkment Syndrome, MdDS most often develops following a cruise or other type of water travel; exposure need not be sustained or lengthy. MdDS has also been reported following air, train, and automobile travel; and less commonly after repeated elevator use, walking on docks, from the use of virtual reality equipment, or practically any motion experience. MdDS occurs in both genders and in all age groups but current statistics demonstrate the highest reported incidence in females between the ages of 30–60. While MdDS most commonly presents after travel, for some onset appears to be spontaneous, without a motion event.
MdDS may persist for months to years, and there is a likelihood of recurrence after an initial onset. Many people experience the more common entity labelled “sea legs” upon alighting from travel experiences. “Sea legs” are a transient, normal response to travel which generally resolves quickly.
In addition to the rocking, bobbing, and/or swaying, there are many secondary symptoms. The sensation of motion is often associated with anxiety, fatigue, difficulty maintaining balance, unsteadiness, and difficulty concentrating (impaired cognitive function).
Symptoms usually begin shortly after the cessation of the motion stimulus, but occasionally there can be a delay between the end of travel and the onset of symptoms. The symptoms tend to be more noticeable in enclosed spaces or when attempting to be motionless (sitting, lying down, or standing in a stationary position).
Mal de Débarquement Syndrome does have a diagnosis code in the ICD-10 for billing: 2023 ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code R42.
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