Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a rare degenerative condition that characteristically affects the parts of the brain involved in walking, balance, eye movement and speech. Together with Multiple System Atrophy and Corticobasal Syndrome, these conditions are referred to as “atypical parkinsonism”.
PSP affects both men and women equally, usually starting around the age of 60. It is caused by abnormal deposition of a protein called tau in brain cells.
Patients with PSP have an increased tendency to fall, even early on in the course of disease. Eye symptoms such as blurring, light sensitivity and dryness are common. Typically, patients have difficulties looking downward and upward. Eyelid spasm may also develop. PSP can lead to swallowing difficulties, loss of interest, impulsiveness and thinking difficulties (especially organisation, reasoning and planning). PSP can sometimes mimic Parkinson’s disease in its early stage.
Symptoms of PSP progress over time and at present, there is no cure or treatment that slows down the progression of disease. Current available treatments therefore, aim at the relief of symptoms. Parkinson’s disease medications may help to assist with stiffness and slowness of movements. Botulinum toxin injections into the eyelid muscles can help to relieve spasm and involuntary eye closure. Supportive measures involving other health care professionals such as speech pathologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist allow maintenance of function and independence.