What is Shy-Drager syndrome?
Shy-Drager syndrome is a mysterious progressive disorder of the central and sympathetic nervous systems, also called multiple system atrophy with postural hypotension. Postural (or orthostatic) hypotension is an excessive drop in blood
pressure when the patient stands up, which causes dizziness or momentary blackouts.
Shy-Drager syndrome is a rare progressive neurological disorder characterized by a varying combination of symptoms. Affected individuals may experience symptoms similar to those found in Parkinson’s disease (parkinsonism); cerebellar signs such as progressive impairment of the ability to coordinate voluntary movements (cerebellar ataxia); and impaired functioning of the portion of the nervous system (autonomic nervous system) that regulates certain involuntary body functions (autonomic failure) such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and bowel and bladder control. The exact cause of multiple system atrophy is unknown.
Shy-Drager syndrome was named for neurologists Milton Shy, M.D., from the National Institutes of Health, and Glenn Drager, M.D., from the Baylor College of Medicine, who first described the condition in 1960. It affects one of every 10,000 people, typically those between ages 50-70. It affects more men than women. In severe cases, the person cannot even stand up. Symptoms can be mild as well. Sometimes, people with mild cases are misdiagnosed as having anxiety or hypertension.
Many nonprescription drugs, such as cold medicines and diet capsules, can trigger extremely high blood pressure spikes in patients with Shy-Drager syndrome, even in very low doses. Therefore, these patients are at risk for strokes and excessive bleeding (hemorrhage) if they take even the recommended dosage of these drugs.