What is MSA?

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MSA is short for multiple system atrophy, a medical condition that involves progressive neurological degeneration. This condition mainly affects the nerves that supply the autonomic nervous system and those that innervate some muscle groups. Patients with MSA will present with abnormalities in bladder control, blood pressure, and heart function.  The affected muscles will also experience problems in muscle tone, movement disorder s, and other abnormalities similar to those seen in Parkinson’s disease.

There is no known cause for the development of multiple system atrophy or MSA. The affected nerves are those that supply the autonomic nervous system causing abnormalities in the body. The nerve loss also affects the production of dopamine which is essential for muscular function. Through dopamine, motor signals are effectively carried out from the brain to the corresponding muscle or muscle group. With dopamine problems also associated with MSA, patients with this condition will also have similar signs to Parkinson’s disease like tremors, muscle rigidity, slurring of speech, abnormal and unsmooth movements, and loss of balance.  It is also common for patients with MSA to have urinary incontinence because of bladder affectation. Some patients will also experience digestion-related problems and heart rate irregularities.

The degeneration of nerve cells involved in MSA is said to be progressive and cannot be fully treated or stopped.  Many medications are aimed at delaying the progression of the disease. Some drugs are also prescribed to ease a specific symptom rather than cure the disease.  Rehabilitation through physical therapy sessions are typically prescribed for most patients to help improve joint mobility and improve overall independence in terms of doing simple daily tasks. Patients who have problems assuming or maintaining a sitting position will be taught techniques to do so. Those who have gait problems will also undergo walking exercises to help them have a smoother walking pattern.  Physical exercises are also done to help prevent muscle contractures and further rigidity of muscle groups and limbs.

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