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 in your physical or emotional well-being. For example, if you or your loved ones have noticed your moods shifting more quickly, 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, to help you 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 you have.
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, 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.
June 17, 2017
- Daroff RB, et al. Disorders of the autonomic nervous system. In: Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 15, 2017.
- Factor SA, et al. Multiple system atrophy: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 15, 2017.
- Multiple system atrophy. National Organization of Rare Diseases. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/multiple-system-atrophy/. Accessed March 19, 2017.
- Multiple system atrophy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/msa/detail_msa.htm. Accessed March 13, 2017.
- Multiple system atrophy. Merck Manual Consumer Version. elizhttp://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/autonomic-nervous-system-disorders/multiple-system-atrophy. Accessed March 19, 2017.
- Factor SA, et al. Multiple system atrophy: Prognosis and treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 15, 2017.
- Drug approval package: Northera (droxidopa) capsules approval letter. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2014/203202Orig1s000TOC.cfm. Accessed March 21, 2017.
- Sandroni P (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 22, 2017.
- Ferri FF. Multiple system atrophy. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 15, 2017.
- Coon EA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 22, 2017.
Multiple system atrophy (MSA)