Multiple system atrophy
Other Names for this Disease
- Shy-Dragger syndrome (formerly)
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 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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- The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library provides information on this condition for patients and caregivers.
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) collects and disseminates research information related to neurological disorders. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
- The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.
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- The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
- Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
- Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs. Access to this database is free of charge.
- PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Multiple system atrophy. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.