Tag Archives: Disembarkement Syndrome

There are 3 areas in your head that must integrate so a person can feel balanced.   When one of these areas does not work well, sometimes people have vertigo.  Other times, people have the sense that they are on a boat when they are on unmoving land.  This condition is called Mal de DeBarquement Syndrome or Disembarkment Syndrome.  Yes, the term for 'getting off of a boat' syndrome.  As one patient said, "I cry every day."  This can be debilitating and ruins lives.

The first area to evaluate is the visual system.  If vision is fine, then we move on to the next potential problem area. The second area is the inner ear, which houses the semi-circular canals.  These canals send information to the brain about direction, change in direction and speed of movement.  Sometimes an infection is the culprit here.  However, once the infection clears up, the symptoms should resolve quickly.  The third area which must integrate these other 2 areas is the cerebellum.

The cerebellum does many things, including receiving information about where the body is in space (proprioception).  It then integrates your body, head and eye movements to make you feel stable.

I've treated many patients with vertigo and have had the pleasure to examine 3 people with MdDS.  In all but one of these patients (one did have an inner ear infection), the cerebellum was the culprit.  The cerebellum should have equal signals in and out.  When there is a physiological asymmetry of signals, people have vertiginous symptoms.  All patients whom I have treated have felt improvement within 3 weeks, the amount of time it takes for neurons to grow and make connections.  Making neuroplastic changes in the deficient side of the cerebellum is the goal.  There are many modalities that can be used to do this, including optokinetic work and vibration.  However, an examination is necessary to determine the fatiguability of the cells in the cerebellum and which side is the problem.  People are not usually fixed within 3 weeks, but it is a great start.  Neuroplasticity takes time and the new connections need to be nurtured.  Treatment as well as homework is recommended.

I recommend finding a doctor who holds a Diplomate in Neurology Degree, DACNB, in your area.  Or, call me...425-802-4501.  Yours in health,  Dr. Merry Harris