Multiple system atrophy
Other Names for this Disease
- Shy-Dragger syndrome (formerly)
 The cause of multiple system atrophy is unknown, although environmental toxins, trauma, and genetic factors have been suggested. Most cases are sporadic, meaning they occur at random. A possible risk factor for the disease is variations in the synuclein gene SCNA, which provides instructions for the production of alpha-synuclein. A characteristic feature of MSA is the accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein in glia, the cells that support nerve cells in the brain. These deposits of alpha-synuclein particularly occur in oligodendroglia, a type of cell that makes myelin (a coating on nerve cells that lets them conduct electrical signals rapidly). This protein also accumulates in Parkinson’s disease, but in nerve cells. Because they both have a buildup of alpha-synuclein in cells, MSA and Parkinson’s disease are sometimes referred to as synucleinopathies.  There is no cure for this condition, and there is no known way to prevent the disease from getting worse. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by symptoms of autonomic nervous system failure such as fainting spells and bladder control problems, combined with motor control symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, and loss of muscle coordination. MSA affects both men and women primarily in their 50s. The disease tends to advance rapidly over the course of 9 to 10 years, with progressive loss of motor skills, eventual confinement to bed, and death.
Last updated: 11/5/2015
- Multiple System Atrophy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). December 18, 2014; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/msa/detail_msa.htm. Accessed 11/5/2015.
- Diedrich A & Robertson D. Multiple System Atrophy. Medscape Reference. May 8, 2015; http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1154583-overview. Accessed 11/5/2015.
- Multiple system atrophy. MedlinePlus. November 2, 2015; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000757.htm. Accessed 11/5/2015.
- Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Multiple system atrophy. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
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