What is Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)?

MSA is a rare, rapidly progressing neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain. MSA impairs the systems that regulate blood pressure, heart rate and the bladder – many of the basic bodily functions that people take for granted every day.

People with MSA suffer from dangerously low blood pressure, speech and swallowing difficulties, sleep disturbances, breathing problems, rigidity and tremors.

The life expectancy for those with MSA is typically 5 to 10 years. There is no remission of the disease. Almost 80% of patients are disabled within five years of the onset of the motor symptoms, and less than 20% of the cases survive beyond 10 years. Rate of progression and the speed of decline may vary widely from case to case.

Patients with advanced MSA often become bed-bound, unable to speak and immobile. At present, there is no cure for MSA, no genetic tests to detect it, no therapy to slow it and very few treatments to manage its debilitating effects. Currently, diagnosis is clinical in nature with no certainty until an autopsy is performed or posthumous pathology examination.

Learn More About MSA from the Mayo Clinic.