HomeHealth A-ZProgressive Supranuclear Palsy - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Progressive supranuclear palsy is an unusual type of brain disorder that affects mobility, balance, vision, speech, and swallowing. You may experience difficulty in moving your eyes and have trouble swallowing food. This is caused by the degeneration of particular brain cells, making it extremely difficult for you to continue normal functions. There is no treatment available at present. The condition is life-threatening but doctors manage it by treating the symptoms.

About Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

PSP, better known as progressive supranuclear palsy and Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome, is a degenerative disease that affects the brain. You may not hear or read much of it as it is extremely rare. PSP is caused by deterioration of cells in areas of your brain that control body movement, coordination, thinking and other important functions. It is often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease due to the similarity of symptoms. PSP occurs when brain cells in an area of the brain stem become damaged, but how and why these cells are damaged isn’t clear.

What are the symptoms of progressive supranuclear palsy?

The symptoms of progressive Supranuclear palsy may include some or all of the following:

  • Loss of balance and mobility issues
  • Difficulty in focusing the eyes
  • Stiffness felt during walking with the movements becoming awkward
  • Falling frequently
  • Slurring
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Disinterest in enjoyable activities
  • Behavioral changes
  • Memory loss
  • Losing reasoning and analytical skills
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fixed expression due to rigidity of facial muscles

When do you need to see a doctor?

Do not wait for the condition to worsen. Visit a doctor once you have difficulty with balance and tend to fall down frequently.

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment

What is the cause for developing progressive supranuclear palsy?

The actual cause of this condition is still unknown. It is due to damage to some of your brain cells that affect your gait, balance, and coordination. Medical researchers have discovered increased quantities of tau, a protein,  in the brain of patients diagnosed with PSP. Identical proteins have been linked to other neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. Progressive supranuclear palsy is not a familial disease; you do not inherit it from your parents or grandparents. The disease is often confused with Pas , but progressive supranuclear palsy is more likely than Parkinson’s disease if you experience:

  1. No shaking
  2. Poor or no response to Parkinson’s medicines 
  3. Difficulty moving the eyes, particularly downward

What are the treatment options for progressive supranuclear palsy?

PSP cannot be fully cured. The doctor will try to manage the symptoms by treating each problem individually in order to provide you with some relief. Some of the treatments that work for most patients include:

  1. Medication for Parkinson’s disease: This is prescribed to normalize muscular movements. The effect of the drugs is not long-lasting and may work for a maximum of 2 to 3 years.
  2. Botox: Injecting small quantities of Botox around the eye may help  to control eyelid spasms. The muscles around your eye will not contract anymore.
  3. Eyeglasses: Ophthalmologists may prescribe special eyeglasses fitted with prism lenses to help you to focus properly. You would also be able to look down without trying to move your eyes
  4. Your doctor will examine you and evaluate the extent of swallowing problems in order to relieve it. You will have to learn special swallowing techniques to eat normally. You may also be fitted with a feeding tube to avoid choking hazards
  5. Slurring will improve once you undergo speech therapy
  6. Lack of balance and a tendency to fall backward will be corrected with the aid of physical and occupational therapies
  7. You may be prescribed antidepressants and sedatives to help you sleep

What are the complications of progressive supranuclear palsy?

PSP may be associated with the following risks and complications:

  • Sustaining physical injuries due to falls
  • Sleeplessness
  • Trouble focusing the eyes
  • Difficulty in swallowing; this may cause aspiration resulting in choking
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Pneumonia


Progressive supranuclear palsy is a neurodegenerative disorder that occurs rarely. It affects normal bodily functions that include movement, balance, and coordination. Visit a doctor to get yourself diagnosed if you experience problems with balance or have difficulty in walking or swallowing food normally.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a diagnostic test for PSP?

Unfortunately, no. But the doctor will note the problems you are experiencing and connect the dots to make the diagnosis. Parkinson’s disease will be ruled out if you do not respond to specific medication meant to treat it.

What type of specialist will treat me for progressive supranuclear palsy?

You will have to visit a neurologist initially. The doctor may recommend different therapists to help you overcome problems with movement and speech. An eye doctor will correct your vision and normalise movement of the eyes.

How can I improve my life if I have been diagnosed with PSP?

Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes that will enable you to remain independent. Use a mobility aid such as a walking stick or wheelchair and senior proof your home by installing grab bars and removing rugs and furniture that you may trip over.

Verified By Dr Sandeep Nayani
MBBS, MD (Manipal University), DM Neurology (SCTIMST, Trivandrum), Consultant Neurologist, Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
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