Motion Sickness (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
How does motion sickness affect our sense of balance?
The symptoms of motion sickness are believed to appear when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the other four systems -- the inner ear, eyes, skin pressure receptors, and the muscle and joint sensory receptors. For example, imagine you are riding in an airplane during a storm, and the plane is being tossed about by air turbulence. But your eyes do not detect all this motion because all you see is the inside of the airplane. Consequently, your brain receives messages that do not coordinate with each other. You might become "air sick." Or suppose you are sitting in the back seat of a moving car reading a book. Your inner ears and skin receptors detect the motion of your travel, but your eyes see only the pages of your book. You could become "car sick."
Another example illustrates an actual medical condition. Suppose you suffer inner ear damage on only one side from either a head injury or an infection. The damaged inner ear does not send the same signals to the brain as the healthy ear. These conflicting signals about the sensation of rotation can result in a sense of spinning or vertigo, as well as nausea.
Is motion sickness a serious condition?
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Not usually. For most people, motion sickness is just a minor annoyance (although it may not feel so minor at the time). Some travelers, however, can be incapacitated by motion sickness.
When do the nausea and vomiting of motion sickness stop?
The distressing symptoms of motion sickness usually stop when the motion that causes it ceases. But this is not always true. There are people who suffer symptoms for even a few days after the stimulis is over. This is called the "mal d'embarquement" syndrome or, more properly, the "mal de debarquement" syndrome. ("Mal d'embarquement" is embarkment or departure sickness while "mal de debarquement" is disembarkment or arrival sickness.)
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 3/22/2012
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