A progressive disorder of the central and autonomic nervous systems, it is characterized by orthostatic hypotension (an excessive drop in blood pressure when standing up) which causes dizziness or fainting. Multiple system atrophy can occur without orthostatic hypotension, but it is rare.
Doctors classify the disorder into 3 types:
the Parkinsonian-type includes symptoms of Parkinson's disease such as slow movement, stiff muscles, and tremor;
the cerebellar-type, which causes problems with coordination and speech;
and the combined-type, which includes symptoms of both parkinsonism and cerebellar failure. Problems with urinary incontinence, constipation, and sexual impotence in men happen early in the course of the disease.
Other symptoms include generalized weakness, double vision or other vision disturbances, difficulty breathing and swallowing, sleep disturbances, and decreased sweating.