You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor, but you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. Include all recent changes you've noticed in your physical or emotional well-being, even if they seem secondary to your main concern. For example, if you or your loved ones have noticed your moods shifting more quickly than in the past, share this with your doctor.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other conditions with which you've been diagnosed, and the names of any prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
- Write down key personal information, including any changes in your sex life, such as reduced interest in sex or difficulty getting an erection.
- Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
- Write down the questions to ask your doctor.
For multiple system atrophy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for these symptoms, such as Parkinson's disease?
- How will you make a firm diagnosis?
- What tests do I need?
- What treatment options are available for multiple system atrophy?
- What are the possible side effects of those treatment options?
- How is my condition likely to progress?
- Will treatment slow the progression of my illness or simply relieve symptoms?
- Are there self-care steps that could help ease my symptoms?
- How will you monitor my health over time?
- Do I need to adjust the medications I'm taking for other health conditions?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you begin having symptoms?
- Do you feel lightheaded or dizzy when you stand up?
- Have you ever fainted?
- Do your symptoms include any emotional changes, such as swinging between laughter and tears?
- Have you noticed any changes in your voice?
- Have you been told that you snore loudly or have interrupted breathing while sleeping?
- Have you had problems with bladder control?
- Have you been constipated?
- Have you had any sexual problems, such as reduced libido or impotence?
- Do you have difficulty chewing or swallowing?
- Do you have difficulty breathing?
- Do you have any movement problems, such as slowness or poor coordination?
- Do you have any family history of Parkinson's disease or other neurological disease?
- Are you being treated for any other health conditions?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any relatives have been diagnosed with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's or Huntington's disease. Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is not known to be an inherited condition, so a family history of a condition with similar symptoms may help your doctor rule out MSA.
May 20, 2014
- Daroff RB, et al. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 1, 2014.
- Ubhi K, et al. Multiple system atrophy: A clinical and neuropathological perspective. Trends in Neurosciences. 2011;34:581.
- Wenning GK, et al. The natural history of multiple system atrophy: A prospective European cohort study. The Lancet Neurology. 2013;12:264.
- Multiple system atrophy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/msa/detail_msa.htm. Accessed March 1, 2014.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2014: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 1, 2014.
- Factor SA, et al. Multiple system atrophy: Prognosis and treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- FDA approves Northera to treat neurogenic orthostatic hypotension. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm386311.htm. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Sandroni P (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 11, 2014.