Multiple system atrophy (MSA) : Prime of Life: A Family’s Story

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a degenerative neurological disorder. MSA is associated with the degeneration of nerve cells in specific areas of the brain. This cell degeneration causes problems with movement, balance, and autonomic functions of the body such as bladder control or blood-pressure regulation. The cause of MSA is not conclusively known and no specific risk factors have been identified, although research indicates that a prion form of the alpha-synuclein protein may be the cause of the disease. Around 55% of cases occur in men, with typical age of onset in the late 50s to early 60s. MSA often presents with some of the same symptoms as Parkinson’s disease. However, MSA patients generally show minimal if any response to the dopamine medications used for Parkinson’s. MSA is distinct from the more common syndrome multisystem proteinopathy. It should also not be confused with the two terms multiple organ dysfunction syndrome or multiple organ system dysfunction syndrome, which are the more modern and accurate terms for multiple organ failure or multiple organ system failure, which is an often-fatal complication of septic shock (due to severe sepsis, a systemic infection that has spread to the bloodstream) or other very severe illnesses or injuries.