Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy: What Is It?

Also known as Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome and PSP, Progressive supranuclear palsy is a disorder that affects the movements when the nerve cells within the brain are damaged. The reason the nerves become damaged is unknown. It is possible that PSP is genetic and passed through families but it could also be due to toxins in the air or a virus.

Those who show signs of PSP will often show signs of other psychiatric and neurological disorders, which makes it difficult to diagnose. Criteria has been created, listing non-symptoms and symptoms, to help ith the diagnosis.

There is currently no cure for PSP but there are treatments to help deal with the symptoms. There are medications and other treatments, like physical therapy, to help deal with the symptoms. This condition does eventually cause death as a complete recovery is impossible.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Causes

There is no known reason for someone to start suffering from PSP but there are theories.

In some cases, the condition seems to be genetic and passed on from other family members. It could be due to a mutation or a gene abnormality. When the genes mutate, they change the DNA in the body – the blueprint for mental and physical traits).

It is also possible that toxins, like pesticides, are responsible for PSP.

A virus is another suggestion, where it can live in the body without the sufferer realizing and grows until a genetic mutation happens.

All theories are under testing conditions.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Symptoms

This neurological disorder starts of slow and gradually becomes obvious. The PSP symptoms commonly mimic those of other psychiatric and neurological disorders. Some of the common symptoms noticed include:

  • Loss of balance
  • Unsteady and slow walking
  • Difficult to look up
  • Falls in the first year of noticeable symptoms
  • Difficult to swallow
  • Slurred speech
  • Dementia – memory problems and slowed thoughts

The psychiatric conditions that PSP resemble can include:

  • Bipolar disorder – where patients have cycles of depression and excitement
  • Schizophrenia – where patients have altered perceptions and thoughts, often leading to hallucination
  • Severe depression – patients have no interest in their life and constantly feel sad, leading to suicide

The neurological disorders that PSP resemble include:

  • Multi-infarct dementia (MID)
  • Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
  • Lewy body disease – when the structures in the brain build abnormally

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Diagnosis

PSP is one disorder that is often misdiagnosed due to the resemblance to many other psychiatric and neurological disorders. The first year has been determined to be the most important to be able to diagnose accurately. This has meant that clinically criteria has been developed to help determine if it is PSP or another disorder.

The clinical diagnoses needs the following:

  • Onset after 40 years of age
  • Trouble looking up
  • Fall present in the first year of symptoms – usually for no reason
  • Gradual progression of the symptoms

The following will not appear in PSP patients:

  • Response to levodopa medication – used for Parkinson’s disease
  • Delusions or hallucinations – Lewy body disease
  • Alien limb syndrome – when limbs move without any conscious control over them. This is often a sign of corticobasal degeneration

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Treatment

There is no cure for the disorder. So far, neurologists can only ease the symptoms. For the emotional issues, like apathy and depression, antidepressant can be used. Drugs used include:

  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Dulozetine (Cymbalta)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Oral medications are not enough to treat all PSP symptoms. Many include spasms in the eyelid, which require botulinum toxin injections, and keratitis from exposure (where the eyes dry because it cannot close properly), where eye drops are used for treatment.

The progression of the disease makes it a necessity for other treatments in the future. Some patients find that physical therapy to help with communicating and walking is needed. The supportive treatments include:

  • Wheelchair or soft-wheeled walker
  • Occupational or physical therapy
  • Speech therapy

The Future for Patients with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Since there is no cure, patients with PSP are treated for their symptoms. They are offered support during the future progression. The degeneration of the nerve cells will continue until the disease is fatal.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Prevention

Since the reasons for PSP are unknown, it is difficult to prevent it. The best option is to keep living a healthy lifestyle. This includes to:

  • Follow a healthy diet low in sugar and saturated fat and fiber-rich
  • Follow an exercise routine regularly
  • Quit/refrain from smoking and using any recreational drugs