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Multiple System Atrophy Cerebellar Type (MSA-C)

A collection of resources for individuals and families affected by MSA-C.

Multiple System Atrophy Cerebellar type (MSA-C) is a rare, sporadic neurodegenerative disorder that causes difficulties with balance, coordination, and autonomic functions of the body. Autonomic functions are things that our body does automatically and unconsciously to keep us alive, including digestion, urination, and regulating body temperature. MSA-C has had different names in the past, including Shy-Drager Syndrome, sporadic Olivopontocerebellar Atrophy (OPCA), and Striatonigral Degeneration.

For complete information about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of Ataxia, visit our What is Ataxia? page. This page contains NAF’s resources that are specific to MSA-C. You can also learn more through The MSA Coalition.

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Clinical Care for MSA-C

Presented by Elizabeth Coon, MD

This webinar gave an overview of the causes and symptoms of MSA-C, the typical diagnostic journey for those affected, and what to expect for clinical care.

Research and Treatment Development for MSA-C

Presented by Shoji Tsuji, MD, PhD

This webinar taught us how MSA-C is studied and gave an overview of the current state of research and drug development for the disease.

Multiple System Atrophy Cerebellar Type Information

Multiple System Atrophy is a rare neurodegenerative disorder. Approximately 3 in 100,000 people will develop MSA, but the frequency and subtype of MSA varies considerably based on geographical location and ethnic background.

Multiple System Atrophy Cerebellar type (MSA-C), which has ataxia symptoms, is more common for people with Japanese, Korean, or Latin American ancestry. Multiple System Atrophy Parkinson type (MSA-P), which has similar symptoms to Parkinson’s disease, is more common for people with European ancestry. MSA-C tends to be less common than MSA-P.

MSA-C Symptoms

MSA-C impacts multiple body systems. This means that the first systems that someone experiences can vary a lot from person to person. Ataxia symptoms may include difficulty with balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, jerky eye movement, and challenges with hand movements.

Autonomic symptoms may include irregular heart rate, inconsistent blood pressure, lack of sweating, problems with digestion, loss of bowel control, and sexual dysfunction. It is common for MSA-C patients to have neurogenic orthostatic hypotension, where they become dizzy or faint when they sit up or stand up. This symptom is related to having inconsistent blood pressure. Many MSA-C patients also have some form of cognitive impairment and particularly struggle with planning or carrying out goals.

MSA-C Prognosis

Due to the rarity of MSA-C and the limited research available, it can be hard to predict how the disease will progress. The onset of symptoms for MSA-C usually occurs in mid-adulthood, with the average age of diagnoses between 55-60 years old. Most MSA-C patients have a life expectancy of 6-10 years after they begin to experience symptoms.

Although there is no preventative or curative treatment for MSA-C, there are treatments available to help manage symptoms. For example, there are medications to reduce dizziness or fainting, as well as sleep apnea devices that can help with breathing difficulties. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can also be beneficial.

MSA-C Diagnosis

MSA-C is a sporadic disease, meaning that it happens infrequently in the population without known genetic or environmental causes. Research is being done to better understand why MSA-C occurs. For now though, there is no specific test for MSA-C or MSA-P. Instead, doctors will use a combination of clinical observations, autonomic function testing, and neuroimaging.

For autonomic testing can include measuring changes in your heart rate while completing different movements, measuring the activity of nerves that control sweating, or measuring how much you are sweating. For neuroimaging, doctors will often order an MRI to measure the size of the pons and cerebellum. In MSA-C, these areas of the brain will be smaller. Based on the results of these tests, doctors can determine if someone meets the criteria for an MSA-C diagnosis.

MSA-C Research News

SCAsource provides Ataxia research news, directly from researchers to the Ataxia community. Visit SCAsource to see their full collection. Here is a collection of articles relevant to Cerebellar Type Multiple System Atrophy (MSA-C). 

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