Some people experience multiple system atrophy with orthostatic hypotension, also called Shy-Drager syndrome. This is a rare type of hypotension that leads to progressive decline of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary functions, such as blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and heart rate. Parts of the brain that control these functions progressively malfunction. Researchers have not discovered what causes nervous system damage in patients with this type of hypotension. This type of hypotension is characterized by severe orthostatic hypotension along with very high blood pressure when lying down. Additional symptoms may include slowed movements, decreased coordination, problems with speech, muscle tremors, and urinary incontinence.There is currently no cure for this type of hypotension. But there are effective treatments to manage symptoms. Most patients die from the condition seven to 10 years after they are diagnosed.
Some people with MSA experience slowness of movement and stiffness in their muscles that can be very similar to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes these symptoms can be improved with traditional medications for Parkinson’s disease. In other cases, physical therapy and exercise can help manage symptoms.
Other individuals with MSA experience problems with balance and coordination called ataxia. These symptoms can sometimes be improved with physical therapy and exercise.