Multiple System Atrophy
Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a degenerative neurological condition affecting movement, blood pressure, and other body functions. It is the combination of symptoms that give this disease its name "multiple system" atrophy. The symptoms, severity, and occurrence are different from person to person. As a result three diseases were described to cover all the symptoms, they are:
- Shy-Drager Syndrome: the most pronounced symptoms are those involving the body system that regulates blood pressure, urinary function, and other functions not involving conscious control.
- Striatonigral Degeneration: has symptoms such as bradykinesia (slowed movements) and rigidity (stiffness in the arms or legs). Striatonigral degeneration resembles Parkinson's disease, except that it does not respond to Parkinson's treatment.
- Olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA): causes loss of balance, coordination, and problems with speech.
The cause of Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is unknown.
Incidences of Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)
- MSA affects men twice as often as women
- Average age of onset is 50 years old
- Average survival time after diagnosis is 10 years. As many as 10 percent of Parkinson's cases are diagnosed incorrectly and later identified as MSA upon autopsy.
Signs & Symptoms
MSA has three cardinal features:
- Parkinsonism (slowness, stiffness of movement)
- Autonomic failure (including low blood pressure when standing, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence or retention)
- Cerebellar ataxia (gait and balance problems due to failure of muscular coordination)
All three characteristics occur in the majority of MSA cases, but with much variation and any one of the three may predominate.
- If autonomic failure predominates, MSA is known as Shy-Drager Syndrome.
- If parkinsonism predominates, it is known as Striatonigral Degeneration.
- If gait and balance problems predominate, it is known as OPCA (Olivopontocerebellar atrophy).
- Symptoms tend to progress faster than Parkinson's disease and similar or slower than Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. Patients usually do not respond well to Parkinson's disease medications, although some may benefit from such medications early on in the disease.