Shy-Drager Syndrome: How it has affected so many lives

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) with Orthostatic Hypotension, which used to be called Shy-Drager Syndrome, is the current classification for a neurological disorder according to the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke. In this disease, there is degeneration of certain nerve cells on the brain and spinal cord which affects body functions that include both the autonomic controls (involuntary controls that dictate bladder function, heart rate and blood pressure) and motor system (responsible for the control of muscle movements and balance). This condition is two or three times more common among men than among women.

Since this disease damages the nervous system, the person affected with this disease may experience symptoms like changes in facial expressions such as a mask-like appearance, inability to close the mouth, and less facial expressions. Most patients also complain of dry mouth and dry skin, and changes in body temperature because of abnormal sweating. Early symptoms may include urinary incontinence and impotence. Most patients also complain of severe constipation leading to the development of rectal incontinence.

The universal feature of this Shy-Drager Syndrome is an excessive drop in the blood pressure when the person suddenly stands up causing dizziness. The affected person also experiences visual disturbances, movement difficulties and tremors.

There is no known cure for Shy-Drager Syndrome and no known treatments to prevent the disease from progressing. The only way to help the affected people is to control the symptoms. In fact, controlling the symptoms is the goal of its treatments.

There are medications used for controlling the symptoms such as anticholinergic medications that may used to reduce early or mild tremors.

To improve movement and balance, Levodopa may be used. Added with Carbidopa, Levodopa works better and its side effects will be lessened.

However, for people with Shy-Drager Syndrome, the response to medications may be disappointing because many affected people do not respond well to treatments using anticholinergics or Levodopa.

Beta-blockers, vasocontrictors and vasopressin may be used to treat low blood pressure.

For constipation, it can be treated by letting the patient eat a high fiber diet and laxatives.

For impotence, drugs that can enhance erections can be used as prescribed by a health care provider.

Always remember that one should never self-medicate because of possible unwanted effects and possible drug interaction with other medications being taken.

It is very important to call your doctor if you develop symptoms of this disorder.

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