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What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness, also called seasickness or carsickness, is the general, overall feeling of illness that some people experience in response to certain kinds of movement. Dizziness, vertigo, nausea and vomiting are all common symptoms of motion sickness. The condition is commonly associated with various modes of travel, such as by car, plane or ship. However, motion sickness also can result from perceived movement, such as when watching an IMAX film or playing a flight simulator or virtual reality game.

The symptoms of motion sickness may range from mild to completely incapacitating, depending on the susceptibility of the person experiencing the symptoms and the duration of the activity that is causing the symptoms. But there are a variety of effective techniques for managing the condition and making travel -- or perceived movement -- more comfortable and enjoyable.
David C. Fiore, MD
Family Medicine
Motion sickness is a very common form of dizziness that is caused by prolonged periods of motion such as in a car or on an amusement ride, or by large amounts of visual stimulation such as in 3-D movies. Common symptoms include paleness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and dizziness. Motion sickness can occur on any kind of moving vehicle, airplanes, boats, cars etc.
The cause of motion sickness is complex and not fully understood, but it is believed to arise from conflicts in sensory input to the brain. The brain senses motion through different signaling pathways: from the eyes via vision, the deeper tissues of the body via touch, and the inner ear, which senses motion, acceleration, and gravity. When your body moves involuntarily, for example, when riding in a car, it can create confusion among these different types of sensory input to the brain. The sensory apparatus in the inner ear appears to be most important in the development of motion sickness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.