MSA Trust

Brief Guide to MSA

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects adult men and women. It is caused by degeneration or atrophy (shrinking) of nerve cells in several (or multiple) areas of the brain. This 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 every 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 4.5 people per 100,000 so that at any one time there are almost 3,300 people living with MSA in the UK. Parkinson’s disease is about 45 times more common, affecting about 210 people per 100,000 in the UK.

Who gets MSA?

MSA usually starts between the ages of 40-60 years, but it can affect people between the ages of 30-70. It affects men and women. Whilst we understand what happens in the brain, we do not know what causes MSA.

We do know that it is not hereditary (so it cannot be passed from parent to child) and it is not infectious or contagious. There is still much to learn and understand about MSA and research is ongoing to better understand the condition.

You can download our full Guide to MSA below or contact us for a copy to be sent to you or for further information.



We have taken every care to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication. It is produced independently, is not influenced by sponsors and is free from endorsement. The information should not be used as a substitute for the advice of appropriately qualified professionals, if in any doubt please seek advice from your doctor or legal professional.


References for this information are available by contacting

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Download resources

A Guide to MSA

A Guide to MSA

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Introduction to MSA Leaflet

Introduction to MSA Leaflet

Download file (1.52 MB)