Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a degenerative neurological disease that affects adult men and women. It is caused by atrophy or shrinking of nerve cells in several (or multiple) areas of the brain which can result in problems with multiple bodily functions such as speech, movement, balance and blood pressure control.
It is important to remember that no two people are the same and every person’s experience of MSA will be different. The MSA Trust aims to support each person affected by MSA throughout their journey.
How common is MSA?
Until recently MSA was thought to be a very rare disease. As we learn more about the disease, it has become easier to recognise and diagnose, though for many people it can still take several years to diagnose. Recent research suggests it affects about 5 people per 100,000 so that at any one time there are almost 3,000 people living with MSA in the UK. Parkinson’s disease is about 45 times more common, affecting about 200 per 100,000 in the UK.
Who gets MSA?
MSA usually starts between the ages of 50-60 years, but it can affect people younger and older. It affects men and women. MSA does not appear to be hereditary although current research is examining whether or not there is a genetic predisposition to develop the disease. The importance of environmental factors is not clear and there is still much to understand about MSA. We do know it is not infectious or contagious and has no connection with the much more common neurological disease, multiple sclerosis (MS).