What Is MSA?

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a neurodegenerative disease affecting the central and autonomic nervous systems. It has features and symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, but is more severe, more rapidly progressive and much more limited in treatment options. MSA is rare, affecting approximately four individuals in 100,000, but its impact on those it touches is devastating.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MSA?

There are two types of MSA:
Parkinsonian: Patients are affected mostly with severe symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, such as slow movement, problems walking, stiff muscles and tremors
Cerebellar: Patients have problems primarily with coordination, walking and slurred speech

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MSA?

MSA has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, including stiffness, tremors and trouble walking, but in a much more severe and rapidly progressing form. In addition, MSA patients develop a number of other problems, including fluctuations in blood pressure, frequent fainting, severe sleep apnea and severe swallowing and speech symptoms that can progress to the inability to swallow and speak.

HOW IS MSA DIAGNOSED?

There are no specific symptoms, blood tests or imaging studies that distinguish MSA. Because MSA resembles other neurodegenerative diseases, misdiagnosis is common, particularly early on when it is often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THAN PARKINSON’S?

Like Parkinson’s, MSA is a neurodegenerative disease affecting the central and autonomic nervous systems. However, MSA’s is more severe, more rapidly progressive and much more limited in treatment options.