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 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 4.4 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 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).



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

Guide to MSA

Guide to MSA

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Introduction to MSA

Introduction to MSA

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We regret to announce the MSA Trust will be suspending all of our Support Groups and our memorial event due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus Covid-19. For our full statement, please click here. Our other services and support will continue to be unaffected and available to everybody affected by MSA. For any questions please contact us at

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