Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are you swaying for weeks after a cruise? You may have mal de Debarquement or MdDS

TOD: Are you swaying for weeks after a cruise?

It's normal to be swaying and feeling as if you're still on the ship when you get back on land. However, if you're still swaying after a week or so, please go see a doctor.  You may have a rare disorder called Debarkation Syndrome or mal de Deparquement (MdDS). This is no joke..believe me as I experienced it first hand! 

I was totally fine on my cruise and did not get sea sick at all. Actually if I might brag, I have very strong sea legs. I've even been on a few deep sea fishing excursions and never got sick.  And as such, I was totally fine on the cruise as well.

My troubles started immediately after getting back on land.  After the last cruise, I was swaying for 2 weeks and it was so bad that I even dropped my son once when I was carrying him. I thought I was going crazy and almost lost it cause I couldn't function. My eyes felt like they were rolling and couldn't focus and I kept on stumbling. If this sounds familiar, chances are you are suffering from what is called Debarkation Syndrome or mal de Deparquement (MdDS).  I didn't know that such a syndrome existed until I experienced it myself.  I had been on a cruise before and at that time I remember feeling the same for about a week. However, since I was pregnant at the time, I attributed it to just being tired and hormonal!  

Apparently MdDS can be treated (for some) with physical therapy and balance training. However, this disorder gets misdiagnosed often as it is not very common and even some physicians may be unaware of this condition.  My GP had told me that in his career as a physician, he had come across only one other patient who had suffered from the same.
I asked him why I was feeling this way as I was fine on the ship and he told me in layman terms that my body is very good at adapting to the rocking motions of the sea. However, the problem lies in the fact that my body cannot switch back very fast to being back on land.  He joked that I belong out at sea! Perhaps I was a fisherman or a captain of a ship in my past life haha!

I was very lucky that it went away  in two weeks with plenty of rest and keeping myself hydrated, but some people are not as lucky. I have read of stories online of people who continue to have these symptoms for months if not years. In very severe cases, it had gotten so debilitating that some people had to quit their jobs as they couldn't focus and always felt nauseous from the swaying. Needless to say, my doctor has suggested that I refrain from cruises indefinitely. Which is a shame as I heard that Princess Cruises allows travel agents to work towards a free cruise if they complete a lengthy training seminar.

With all said and done, I still enjoyed my two voyages and I certainly don't regret going as both of these cruises where very memorable to me...not to mention I had an amazing time!

For now, I will just have to live vicariously through the stories that my clients bring back from their adventures out at sea.

In closing, I'm sharing this story with you today in hopes of making people aware that such a condition exists. And to reassure those who are feeling these symptoms that they are not crazy and that it's not all in their head.  I am not a physician so I hesitate to dispense any advice. All I can urge you to do is to seek advice of a physician.

Here's an article from the Washington Post.

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