A person with Shy-Drager syndrome has an abnormally functioning autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls many involuntary functions of the body, including blood pressure and heart rate.
Shy-Drager syndrome is somewhat similar to Parkinson's disease, but causes more extensive damage in the body. There is widespread degeneration of many parts of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary activities of the body such as blood pressure.
Symptoms of Shy-Drager syndrome can include: dizziness and faintinglow blood pressure, especially upon standing (postural hypotension) erectile dysfunctiontremors, that is, small involuntary muscle movements muscle rigidity or muscle achesurinary incontinence, that is, loss of bladder control gait changes, that is, changes in how the person walkschanges in facial expressiondifficulty swallowing and chewingconfusion, dementia, or depression
The exact cause of Shy-Drager syndrome is not known. It is more common in people older than 60 years and occurs more frequently in males.
There is no known way to prevent Shy-Drager syndrome.
The first step in the diagnosis of Shy-Drager syndrome is a complete medical history and full neurologic exam. The healthcare professional may then order tests, such as: an electroencephalogram (EEG) to study the electrical pathways in the braincranial CT scan or MRI scan to check for abnormalities in the brain structuresblood and urine tests to measure levels of chemicals involved in nerve transmission
The healthcare professional will also check the person's vital signs, such as pulse and blood pressure. These findings are often abnormal in a person with Shy-Drager syndrome. Orthostatic hypotension, which is an inability to maintain an adequate blood pressure while changing body positions, will be present in someone with Shy-Drager syndrome. Orthostatic hypotension can cause dizziness, fainting, and injury.
A person with Shy-Drager syndrome may experience a progressive loss of ability in walking and other motor functions.
Shy-Drager syndrome is not transmitted from one person to another. It does not appear to be an inherited disorder.
Because there is no known cure, treatments are used to control the symptoms of Shy-Drager syndrome. Medication can be given to raise blood pressure in an individual with low blood pressure. Anticholinergic medications may be given to help reduce the tremors. A pacemaker can be inserted to control the heart rate as needed.
Side effects vary depending on the medications used, but may include dizziness, dry mouth, and allergic reactions.
As Shy-Drager syndrome progresses, the person may experience a decreased ability to walk, increasing falls, and side effects from medications.
A person with Shy-Drager syndrome will need ongoing monitoring by the healthcare professional, who can watch for any changes in neurological status and treat symptoms as they occur. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
Isselbacher KJ, Braunwald E, Wilson, JD, et al: Harrison's principles of internal medicine. ed 13; p2286. New York, 1994, McGraw-Hill.