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How Do I Know If I Have Multiple System Atrophy & What Are Its Types?

MSA or multiple system atrophy is a rare neurodegenerative disorder characterized by degeneration of autonomic nervous system.1 The autonomic nervous system controls various involuntary functions of the body such as breathing, bladder function, blood pressure, and muscle control. Due to degeneration of autonomic nervous system, the symptoms that appear in multiple system atrophy are erectile dysfunction, fainting, and disturbed heart rate, problems related to bladder control, tremor, and rigidity of muscle coordination and many more. There is no cure for this disorder, but symptoms can be treated with medicines. There is no drug present today that cannot slow down the progress of the disorder.

How Do I Know If I Have Multiple System Atrophy?

How Do I Know If I Have Multiple System Atrophy?

Multiple system atrophy affects men and women equally belonging to all racial groups. The symptoms of multiple system atrophy represent itself in the age of 50 years that progress to life-threatening consequences in 5- 10 years. In the late stages, it may lead to loss of motor function and you may get restricted to bed. It may result in pneumonia and you may die of respiratory and cardiac failure. 1

You can know that you have multiple system atrophy by its symptoms. This disease can involve various parts of the body. The general symptoms that you have when you have multiple system atrophy are-

Blood Pressure Deviations– you may have low blood pressure due to which may experience lightheadedness, dizziness and even fainting when you rise up from sitting or when you lie down. This condition is also called postural hypotension. Your blood pressure may also rise up to dangerous levels while lying down.

Kidney And Bowel Related Problems– due to bowel dysfunction, you may have bowel incontinence or constipation. Kidney related dysfunction may cause involuntary urination or urine incontinence due to loss of bladder control.

Sweat Related Problems– it includes improper control of body temperatures leading to icy cold hands or feet, low production of tears, saliva and sweat and heat intolerance due to decreased perspiration.

Sleep Anomalies– you may have disturbed sleep with problems like agitated sleep or abnormal dreams or abnormal breathing in the dream.2

Sexual Dysfunction– there can be a loss of libido or erection problems.

Mental Problems– you may feel difficulty in controlling your emotions like crying or laughing out of proportion.

Heart-Related Problems– you may feel irregular heartbeats that can be rapid in one time and slow in another.

What Are Multiple System Atrophy Types?

Multiple system atrophy symptoms also depend on its type. There are two types of multiple system atrophy i.e., parkinsonian and cerebellar.

Parkinsonian Type

Multiple system atrophy represents symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.3 It is the most common type also. Its symptoms include-

  • Difficulties In the movement of the arms and legs
  • Rigidity or spasticity of the muscles
  • Tremors
  • Slow movement
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Poor posture
  • Cerebellar Type

This type mainly affects muscles and impact muscle coordination. Its symptoms include

  • Slurring of speech at a slow pace and low volume
  • Impairment of movement and coordination resulting in unsteadiness in gait and frequent loss of balance
  • Difficulties in swallowing or chewing
  • Vision problems like blurred or double vision or inability to focus on the images with eyes.

Multiple system atrophy is a rare progressive disease that affects the autonomic nervous system and movement. It is a degenerative disease that slowly damages the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible to control various involuntary functions such as blood pressure, bladder function, breathing, and muscle control. Its symptoms are very similar to Parkinson’s disease that includes slow movement, poor muscle coordination, poor balance, and rigid muscles.


Multiple system atrophy is a neurological disease that involves nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord. Its symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease. Its symptoms include slow movement, tremors, incoordination, clumsiness, impaired speech and others discussed above. The presence of these symptoms indicates that you may have multiple system atrophy.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 31, 2019

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