Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a disorder of the nervous system that gets worse over time. It affects the part of the nervous system that controls automatic functions like balance and coordination. This can lead to early death.
MSA is sometimes called a Parkinson plus syndrome because some symptoms are similar. There are different types of MSA.
MSA happens when nerve cells to break down in the brain and spinal cord. These nerves control automatic functions. The damage to the cells may be caused by a buildup of a certain protein. It is not known why this happens.
Problems with posture, such as leaning to one side and forward head bend
Changes in writing
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. An exam of the nervous system will also be done. It will focus on the parts of the nervous system that control automatic functions. You will likely need to see a specialist.
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There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms a person has. Choices are:
Medicines may be given to ease problems like:
Lightheadedness that happens when standing
Other symptoms, such as constipation, urinary control problems, or erectile dysfunction
Some therapies that may be needed are:
Physical therapy to help with strength and range of motion
Occupational therapy to help with everyday tasks and self-care
Speech therapy to improve swallowing and speaking
Respiratory therapy to support breathing
Dietary changes may help manage symptoms. For example, soft foods may make it easier for people who have problems swallowing.
There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.
Flabeau O, Meissner WG, et al. Multiple system atrophy: current and future approaches to management. Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2010 Jul;3(4):249-263.
Multiple system atrophy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/multiple-system-atrophy. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Multiple system atrophy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Multiple-System-Atrophy-Information-Page. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Multiple system atrophy orthostatic hypotension information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Multiple-System-Atrophy-Orthostatic-Hypotension-Information-Page/2796/organizations/1143. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Olivopontocerebellar atrophy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Olivopontocerebellar-Atrophy-Information-Page. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Stefanova N. Translational therapies for multiple system atrophy: Bottlenecks and future directions. Auton Neurosci. 2017; doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2017.09.016.
Last reviewed December 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/22/2021
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