What Causes
Motion Sickness?

What Causes Motion Sickness?

panic attack

Motion sickness can happen to anyone. When your brain has difficulty making sense of the information it receives from your body, ears, and eyes, it can result in uncomfortable symptoms. These can include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and sweating.

Motion sickness can occur anywhere there is a lot of movement, including being in the car, on a boat, or an airplane.

While the exact cause of motion sickness is not known, what we do know is that it occurs when one of your three balancing systems detect movement, but the other two do not. These three systems include the eyes, inner ear, and the position-sensing nerves in your arms, legs, neck, and head.

The Role of the Eyes

If your eyes are sensing movement (like riding in a train and looking out the window), a signal is sent to your brain of “movement.” But your position-sensing nerves in your arms, legs, neck and head, as well as your inner ear, tell your brain that you are sitting still in the train. These are two very conflicting messages for your brain to understand and the result can be motion sickness.

The Role of the Ears

Your inner ear, also known as the vestibular system, helps to control balance. And your inner ears are in constant communication with your brain, letting it know when movement is and isn’t occurring. So if you’re on a boat and your inner ear picks up on movement, it communicates that movement to the brain, while the eyes and position-sensing nerves do not sense movement, and the mismatch can cause motion sickness.

The Role of the Position-Sensing Nerves

The position-sensing nerves in your arms, legs, neck, and head, as the name implies, provides your brain with information as to where in space your body parts are, and whether or not they are moving. Certain conditions dampen the function of these nerves, causing confusion about movement. For example, those with diabetes can get impairment in the position-sensing nerves of their feet, making them feel unsteady even when standing still. This mismatches with the input from their eyes and ears (“no movement”), leading to dizziness and possibly motion sickness.

The Role of the Brain

Your brain is the “central processing unit” for the three sensory inputs that determine motion sickness. When your brain receives mismatching signals regarding “movement” and “no movement,” you can experience motion sickness and dizziness.

The Role of Genetics

It’s believed that genetics might play a role in motion sickness, since it seems to run in families. For example, if you have a parent who experiences motion sickness, you are more likely to also experience it.

What Causes Car Sickness?

We often experience a lot of movement when we are riding in a car. Our eyes sense movement as they see trees and buildings passing by, but our bodies are sitting still, and our ears and position-sensing nerves are not detecting movement. Our brain is receiving conflicting messages that we are both moving and not moving. For some people, their brain is very sensitive to this disconnect and it results in the symptoms of car sickness.

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

Motion sickness often comes on suddenly and can involve a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Increase in saliva production
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of or trouble maintaining your balance
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing
  • İrritability

How to stop motion sickness?

If you begin to experience motion sickness, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your symptoms:

  • Avoid reading
  • Find a stable object to focus your vision on
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Take deep breaths

How to get rid of motion sickness permanently?

There are a few things you can do to try and prevent your motion sickness from occurring:

Before and During the Trip Medicines
OTC antihistamines OTC antihistamines can help prevent and treat motion sickness. An example is Dramamine, which can be long-lasting.
Scopolamine Scopolamine is a prescription medication that you wear as a patch behind your ear. Four hours before getting on the plane, boat, or in the car, apply the patch. Most doses can last for up to 3 days.
Promethazine Also used as an allergy medication, Promethazine can help prevent the unpleasant symptoms of motion sickness.
Long Term Solutions

The following are potential long term solutions for your motion sickness:

Take vitamin B-6 Vitamin B-6 has been indicated in some studies to help reduce nausea.
Take 5-HTP + magnesium 5-HTP and magnesium can help the brain to relax by producing serotonin.
Take supplements Supplements such as ginger can help calm the stomach and provide relaxation.
Invest in acupressure bands Acupressure bands stimulate a point in the wrist known as P6, which can help prevent nausea.
Biofeedback therapy Biofeedback therapy uses electrodes on the hands to detect sweat and motion sickness symptoms. Through training, individuals can learn to prevent the symptoms from worsening.

How To Cure Motion Sickness: It Might Be Your Eyes

When common treatments are unable to provide you relief from your motion sickness, Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD) might be the cause of your symptoms. BVD is the cause of a slight misalignment between our eyes, which makes it incredibly difficult for our eyes to send one clear image to our brain.

Here’s what happens when someone has BVD: With two eyes, we are able to see one clear image. This is because our brain is able to merge the images seen by each eye into a single image, which is known as binocular vision

In patients with BVD, there is a slight misalignment between their eyes resulting in their eyes being out of sync with one another, causing the brain to have a very difficult time processing those two separate images to form one clear image.

The result? The brain forces the eye aligning muscles to fix the problem by realigning the eyes. But the realignment is only temporary and misalignment then recurs, which is followed closely by realignment, and the cycle of misalignment and realignment continues. This sends a “movement” signal to the brain. Over time, this places an immense amount of strain on the eye muscles and leads to dizziness and regular episodes of nausea.

BVD is treated by correcting the eye misalignment using our micro-prism lenses. These glasses bend light in a way that the images seen by your eyes are moved into the position they need to be in, resulting in realigned images. When the images seen by your two eyes are aligned, your brain can easily merge them into one, singular image. The cycles of misalignment/realignment cease, the "movement" signal is no longer sent to the brain, and your nausea and other uncomfortable symptoms caused by BVD are significantly reduced or eliminated.

In fact, the average patient will notice a 50% reduction of symptoms by the end of their first visit. Over the next several visits, our team at Vision Specialists of Michigan will fine-tune your lenses so that your nausea and other BVD symptoms can continue to improve and be eliminated.

Get Treatment For Your Motion Sickness

For anyone suffering from motion sickness, including motion sickness when not moving, there is treatment. Our compassionate doctors at Vision Specialists of Michigan will complete a thorough NeuroVisual Examination to determine the extent of your vision misalignment (or your child’s) and prescribe you with the specialized aligning lenses. Every person can receive treatment for BVD, as long as they are old enough to wear the specialized aligning glasses (and be able to tell or show the doctor how they feel).

Your Motion Sickness Could Be Caused
By Your Eyes

Want to learn more about Binocular Vision Dysfunction?

Watch these videos of BVD patient experiences:

Motion Sickness and Driving

Cynthia’s Binocular Vision Dysfunction

Roy’s Motorcycle Accident and Binocular Vision Dysfunction Story

Watch the Latest Video Testimonials

Daily Stomach Ache, Headache, Nausea:

Christine's Binocular Vision Dysfunction Story

Headaches and Learning Challenges:

Kali's Binocular Vision Dysfunction Story

Years of Daily Headaches, Nausea, and Dizziness:

Cynthia's Binocular Vision Dysfunction
It may be your eyes

  • American Academy Optometry
  • American Optometric Association
  • Michigan Optometric Association
  • VEDA
  • Neuro Optometry Rehabilitation Association

Dr. Sandy DiPonio earned her optometry degree from Illinois College of Optometry in 1996. She is a highly skilled and experienced eye care professional dedicated to giving her patients of all ages excellent and compassionate care. She has a wide variety of experience in binocular vision, pediatric and adult eye care, ocular disease and contact lens fitting. She strives to provide each of her patients the best quality of life they can achieve with their vision through knowledge and education of treatment options.

Dr. DiPonio is a member of the American Optometric Society and Michigan Optometric Society.

Dr. Sally Hoey has been practicing optometry since graduating from Michigan College of Optometry in 2001. During her time in optometry school, she developed an interest in binocular vision, culminating in a senior thesis involving binocular vision.

Prior to joining Vision Specialists of Michigan, Dr. Hoey specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of vision-related learning problems as well as other binocular vision disorders. Her other areas of interest include specialty contact lens fittings and treating dry eye. Dr. Hoey strives to provide her patients with clear, comfortable vision while meeting their individual needs at the same time.

Dr. Hoey had the opportunity to provide eye care on an optometric mission trip to Guyana, South America and vision screenings at a local medical clinic. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, Michigan Optometric Association, Metropolitan Detroit Optometric Society and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

Dr. Jennifer Place graduated with honors from Michigan College of Optometry in 2001.

Before joining Vision Specialists of Michigan, she specialized in treating pediatric and adult patients with binocular vision disorders and vision-related learning problems, as well as fitting specialty contact lenses and managing various types of ocular disease. She enjoys working with patients with unique visual needs, and she takes great pride in providing all patients with highly customized care.

Dr. Place has volunteered for Opening Eyes, a program that provides eye exams to the athletes of the Michigan Special Olympics, and she participated in an international mission to St. Lucia to provide eye care to those in need. Dr. Place is a member of the Detroit Optometric Society, the Michigan Optometric Association, the American Optometric Association, the College of Vision Development, and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation.

Dr. Mary Jo Ference has been practicing optometry since 1990 upon graduating from Ferris State University- Michigan College of Optometry, and is certified in Low Vision Rehabilitation. She has worked at Sinai-Grace Hospital systems for over 20 years before joining Vision Specialists of Michigan in 2013 to work with binocular vision disorders. Her clinical areas of expertise include visual rehabilitation of pediatric and adult patients who have suffered from brain trauma, injury or disease. She has taught both optometry and ophthalmology residents at Sinai Grace Hospital. Dr. Ference has sat on numerous boards, including Sinai Grace Hospital, Berry Out-Patient Surgical Center, and Seedlings Braille Books for the Blind. She is actively involved in area school districts to provide education, training and access for students, teachers, OT’s and PT’s to eye care service rehabilitation information. Dr. Ference has lectured extensively nationally and internationally.

Dr. Debby Feinberg began practicing Optometry in Oakland County in 1983, upon graduating from Illinois College of Optometry. She joined her father, Dr. Paul C. Feinberg, at Mall Optical Center, which was located in Summit Place Mall.

Since 1995 Dr. Feinberg has been developing the field of NeuroVisual Medicine which is the optometric subspecialty that identifies and treats neurological / medical symptoms that originate directly or indirectly in the visual system.

Dr. Feinberg has been performing pioneering work with Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD), a condition where a vision misalignment (frequently subtle) creates difficulties with the two eyes working together to create a single 3-dimensional image, and difficulties with the two eyes following that image as it moves.

The symptoms caused by BVD are not usually associated with problems with the visual system, and include headache, dizziness, anxiety and panic, persistent post-concussive symptoms, gait instability and balance problems, frequent falls, neck pain, motion sickness, nausea, and reading and learning problems.

In 2004. Dr. Feinberg established Vision Specialists of Birmingham, specifically designing the practice to accommodate the needs of the NeuroVisual Medicine patient.

In 2011, the office moved to its current location in Bloomfield Hills and updated its name to Vision Specialists of Michigan.