What is multiple system atrophy? Is it a serious disease? Can you live a normal life with it? Find out all the answers!

Multiple system atrophy is a rare neurodegenerative disorder. The symptoms that characterize this disorder in the initial stage are similar to Parkinson’s disease.

Multiple system atrophy is a rare, neurodegenerative disorder in which the autonomic nervous system and movement are affected.

Characteristic symptoms of this disorder include fainting spells and problems with heart rate and bladder control. In the initial stage, they are similar to Parkinson’s disease.

Multiple system atrophy has a rapid evolution. The patient, over time, will be dependent on a wheelchair. He will suffer, among other degenerative processes, intermittent urinary catheterization and executive dysfunction.

The course of the disorder is assessed using the Multiple System Atrophy Unified Grading Scale. This catalogs activities of daily living, motor neurovegetative disability and general disability.

Unfortunately, when it comes to multiple system atrophy, the degenerative process is inevitable, with a median survival time between 6 and 9 years. No treatment cures multiple system atrophy, although there are a number of measures and medications that help relieve symptoms.

What is multiple system atrophy?

Currently, there is no known cause for multiple system atrophy. Although professionals in the field have studied whether it is due to a certain hereditary component or an environmental toxin that is related to the disease.

In neither case is there evidence to strongly support the theories. The disease causes atrophy of certain parts of the brain. Specifically, the cerebellum, the basal nuclei and the brain stem, responsible for regulating internal body functions, digestion and motor control.

Behind the loss of cognitive and motor functions is a degenerative process of the neurons.

The most characteristic symptoms, among many others, are the following:

  • Loss of fine motor skills. Which means difficulty performing the most basic activities such as closing the mouth or chewing.
  • Disruption in sleep patterns. Difficulty falling asleep and fatigue during the day.
  • Frequent falls. Due to loss of control over one’s own body. Vertigo and fainting.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control.
  • Absence of sweating that can occur in any part of the body.
  • Vision and speech problems.

The development of multiple system atrophy can vary but the disease will never go into remission. As this process progresses, daily activities are difficult for the patient to perform.

What is the treatment of the disorder?

There is no cure for multiple system atrophy. There are also no treatments to slow the progression of brain degeneration. On the contrary, there are studies that are evaluating medications that could delay the evolution of the disease.

Certain patients may have specific medications or treatments for these symptoms. For instance, patients can treat dizziness and fainting with solutions such as adding salt to the diet and avoiding heavy meals and alcohol.

In this case, for patients following salt diets, fludrocortisone is also prescribed. Doctors may prescribe midodrine to increase blood volume and narrow blood vessels.

The atrophy process

Due to the degenerative changes that are appearing, therapy and family support will be a key pillar in their development.

Multiple system atrophy is estimated to affect fewer than 5 people in 100,000.

The patient usually feels urgent and wants to live his time since he is aware of the disease. Meanwhile, he personally experiences how the degenerative process advances. This can produce impotence, depression and episodes of crisis in the person.

It will be really important for the patient to go to therapy, which will be of great help to be able to cope with the disease as well as possible. Likewise, the support of family and close people will also be essential.

Patients with multiple system atrophy generally live 7 to 10 years after the first symptoms appear. However, this index may vary. Sometimes people can live with the disease for more than 15 years.

Death, at the end of the disease, is generally due to respiratory problems due to the inability of the nervous system to carry out its own regulation.

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