By Treven Pyles
Posted on March 15th, 2021
Multiple system atrophy currently affects between 15,000 and 50,000 people in the United States. It causes symptoms that are similar to those of Parkinson's disease. For this reason, people with a history of paraquat exposure who have a diagnosis of multiple system atrophy need to seek a second opinion from a different medical specialist.
Initially known as Shy-Drager syndrome, multiple system atrophy begins with the patient experiencing symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, and passing out. However, in some people, the first symptoms of this brain disorder are difficulty initiating movement, body stiffness, loss of bladder control, and recurrent falls. Because multiple system atrophy often damages the autonomic nervous system, individuals with this condition may eventually experience the following symptoms:
The symptoms of multiple system atrophy are very similar to those of Parkinson's disease, which is why misdiagnosis is a very common occurrence in people with the latter brain disorder. Up to 30% of individuals with Parkinson's disease receive a wrong diagnosis during their first medical appointment. For this reason, it is crucial for the family members of people with a history of paraquat exposure to keep a close eye on their health and look out for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. If their loved one receives a diagnosis of multiple system atrophy, they must seek a second and even a third opinion from other medical specialists in order to make sure that they have a correct diagnosis.
The first notable difference between multiple system atrophy and Parkinson's disease is that the former usually occurs in people of a younger age, whereas the average diagnosis age for people with the latter is 60. Another series of symptoms that are only present in people with multiple system atrophy refers to sleeping abnormalities such as snoring, apnea, stridor, and acting out dreams. Furthermore, individuals with this condition often have a low pitch or quivering voice.
Both multiple system atrophy and Parkinson's disease occur due to the accumulation of a protein known as alpha-synuclein in the brain. These deposits affect the release of dopamine, a crucial neurotransmitter responsible for motor commands. Nevertheless, the difference between the two conditions concerns the type of cells involved. Accordingly, while Parkinson's disease damages the neurons that release dopamine of a portion of the brain that is responsible for motor control, which is known as the nigrostriatal area, multiple system atrophy affects both neurons and glial cells, which are the support cells that promote the health of neurons. Moreover, some of the glial cells damaged by multiple system atrophy produce myelin, a fatty substance that insulates neurons.
Consequently, when assessing the health of a person with paraquat exposure, medical professionals need to conduct precise tests and exams such as brain scans in order to determine which areas of the brain are affected. This will lead to a correct and accurate diagnosis. Only people who developed Parkinson's disease are eligible for compensation from the liable paraquat manufacturers, which is why it is crucial that they have the right diagnosis. The risk of coming to struggle with Parkinson's disease as a result of paraquat exposure is 250% higher in this demographic than in the general population.