What Are The Symptoms Of Multiple System Atrophy?

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive disorder of the nervous system. The neurodegenerative disease is characterized by symptoms that affect movement and the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary actions like digestion and blood pressure regulation. The symptoms progress as different kinds of nerve cells within the spinal cord and brain lose their function and die. The disease is rare and estimated to affect only fifteen to fifty thousand individuals in the United States. 

The symptoms usually appear when an individual is in their fifties. Eventually, symptoms lead to a patient being bedridden because they no longer have motor function. Patients with multiple system atrophy might die suddenly from respiratory or cardiac problems.

Balance And Posture Issues

There are two main types of multiple system atrophy: Parkinsonian and cerebellar. The cerebellar type is the less common of the two. The typical symptoms involve issues with muscle coordination, otherwise known as ataxia, which can be a symptom of an overarching disease or exist by itself. This condition, like multiple system atrophy, is a degenerative disease affecting the nervous system. Patients with ataxia may look like they're drunk: their speech may be slurred, and they may stumble or fall. 

These balance and posture issues occur because the nerves in the cerebellum degenerate. The cerebellum is the portion of the brain that coordinates muscle movements. An individual's gait may be unsteady, and they may have trouble keeping their balance. In addition, patients may have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Balance and posture issues can also occur in the Parkinsonian type of multiple system atrophy. It's very difficult to distinguish this disease from Parkinson's disease at first.

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