Search



English Spanish     

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

What is progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a rare brain disease. It happens because of damage to nerve cells in the brain. PSP affects your movement, including control of your walking and balance. It also affects your thinking and eye movement.

PSP is progressive, which means that it gets worse over time.

What causes progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

The cause of PSP is unknown. In rare cases, the cause is a mutation in a certain gene.

One sign of PSP is abnormal clumps of tau in nerve cells in the brain. Tau is a protein in your nervous system, including in nerve cells. Some other diseases also cause a buildup of tau in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease.

Who is at risk for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

PSP usually affects people over 60, but in some cases it can start earlier. It is more common in men.

What are the symptoms of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

Symptoms are very different in each person, but they may include:

  • A loss of balance while walking. This is often the first symptom.
  • Speech problems
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A blurring of vision and problems controlling eye movement
  • Changes in mood and behavior, including depression and apathy (a loss of interest and enthusiasm)
  • Mild dementia
How is progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP0 diagnosed?

There is no specific test for PSP. It can be difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms are similar to other diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will take your medical history and do physical and neurological exams. You may have an MRI or other imaging tests.

What are the treatments for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

There is currently no effective treatment for PSP. Medicines may reduce some symptoms. Some non-drug treatments, such as walking aids and special glasses, may also help. People with severe swallowing problems may need gastrostomy. This is a surgery to insert a feeding tube into the stomach.

PSP gets worse over time. Many people become severely disabled within three to five years after getting it. PSP isn't life-threatening on its own. It can still be be dangerous, because it increases your risk of pneumonia, choking from swallowing problems, and injuries from falling. But with good attention to medical and nutritional needs, many people with PSP can live 10 or more years after the first symptoms of the disease.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Walking Problems

What are walking problems?

If you are like most people, you walk thousands of steps each day. You walk to do your daily activities, get around, and exercise. It's something that you usually don't think about. But for those people who have a problem with walking, daily life can be more difficult.

Walking problems may cause you to:

  • Walk with your head and neck bent over
  • Drag, drop, or shuffle your feet
  • Have irregular, jerky movements when walking
  • Take smaller steps
  • Waddle
  • Walk more slowly or stiffly
What causes walking problems?

The pattern of how you walk is called your gait. Many different diseases and conditions can affect your gait and lead to problems with walking. They include:

  • Abnormal development of the muscles or bones of your legs or feet
  • Arthritis of the hips, knees, ankles, or feet
  • Cerebellar disorders, which are disorders of the area of the brain that controls coordination and balance
  • Foot problems, including corns and calluses, sores, and warts
  • Infections
  • Injuries, such as fractures (broken bones), sprains, and tendinitis
  • Movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease
  • Neurologic diseases, including multiple sclerosis and peripheral nerve disorders
  • Vision problems
How is the cause of a walking problem diagnosed?

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. This will include checking your bones and muscles and doing a neurological exam. In some cases, you may have other tests, such as lab or imaging tests.

What are the treatments for walking problems?

Treatment of walking problems depends on the cause. Some common types of treatments include:

  • Medicines
  • Mobility aids
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery