Management of multiple system atrophy

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Multiple system atrophy or MSA is a rare neurological disorder that weakens the involuntary or autonomic functions of the body including blood pressure, heart rate, functions of the bladder and digestive tract.

The condition is formerly Shy-Drager syndrome and has the similarity to the Parkinson’s disease symptoms like slowness of movement, rigidity of the muscles and poor balance. Multiple system atrophy is a degenerative disease that usually develops during adulthood in the 50s or 60s.

Multiple system atrophy
There is difficulty in swallowing or dysphagia

Symptoms of multiple system atrophy

Parkinsonian-type symptoms

  • At first, there is slow movement or bradykinesia
  • Rigid muscles and there is difficulty in bending the arms and legs
  • Tremors
  • Weakened balanced and posture

Cerebellar type symptoms

  • There is difficulty in swallowing or dysphagia
  • Weakening of movement and coordination like unsteady gait and losing balance
  • Dysarthria which is slurred, slow or low volume speech
  • Blurred vision and difficulty in focusing the eyes
  • Lastly, there is lack of muscle coordination or ataxia

Some general signs and symptoms of multiple system atrophy

  • Postural hypotension which is a form of low blood pressure that makes a person feel dizzy, lightheaded or may even faint when standing up from sitting or lying down.
  • Constipation and loss of bladder or bowel control which is known as incontinence.
  • The production of perspiration, saliva and tears are reduced
  • Weakened control of temperature of the body which results to cold hands or feet
  • An abnormal breathing at night and nervous to sleep caused by “acting out” one’s dream.
  • Failure to achieve or maintain an erection which is impotence
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty in controlling some emotions

Complications that can be caused by multiple system atrophy include progressive immobility of the body that can cause secondary problems such as breakdown of the skin, losing the ability of care for oneself in day-to-day activities such as bathing or brushing of the teeth. Paralysis of the vocal cord which makes speech and the breathing difficult can also occur and there is an increased difficulty in swallowing.

Treatment and home remedies

  • Raise the blood pressure by adding little salt to the diet and drink plenty of fluids. Salt and fluids can cause an increase in the blood volume and raise the blood pressure as well as drinking coffee and other drinks.
  • Consume plenty of fiber in the diet in order to ease constipation or take over-the-counter laxatives.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and eat smaller meals
  • Elevate the head of the bed to 30-degree angle in order to minimize an increase in the blood pressure when sleeping and get up slowly from a reclining position. You can learn more about these measures by enrolling in a course on first aid
  • Stay in air-conditioned rooms on hot days and avoid excessive amounts of heat when showering.
  • Wear elastic stockings up to the waist in order to keep the blood pressure from lowering.


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