​​​​About Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), although a relatively rare neurodegenerative disorder, is considered to be one of the most common atypical Parkinsonian syndromes and is increasingly recognized to involve a range of motor, behaviour and language abnormalities. It is associated with a diverse clinical presentation, including classical Richardson's syndrome and several variant phenotypes.

  • About 5 to 6 people in 100,000 are affected by the condition
  • The average age of onset varies from patient to patient
    • reported cases have presented in the early 40s but most patients develop symptoms in their 60s to 80s
  • PSP affects men and women roughly equally and people from various ethnicities

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Causes of PSP

The cause or causes of PSP are not known. PSP is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning brain cells or neurons in selected areas of the brain are degenerating and dying faster than expected with simple aging. It is associated with the accumulation and aggregation of a protein called Tau that is altered from its normal state and this is believed to contribute to the neurodegenerative process. The reason why the Tau protein aggregates and damages the neurons is being studied in research labs both within The Rossy PSP Centre and throughout the world.

Symptoms of PSP

  • Difficulties with walking and balance including repeated unprovoked falls
  • Trouble with blurred or double vision or moving eyes down
  • Changes in speech, swallowing and hand coordination
  • Changes in behaviour, memory and other cognitive functions

Management of PSP

The treatment of PSP is symptomatic. Since PSP patients present with a variety of symptoms, our approach is to provide targeted therapies. For example, Parkinson's drugs are sometimes helpful for motor problems. Mood and sleep changes also occur in PSP and can be addressed. Preventative measures trying to avoid major injuries from falls and hoping to reduce the risk of aspiration of food or mouth content into the lungs. A major hope is that we will eventually have treatment that will change the progression of the disease.

What can I do to help?

Help can be provided in various ways. As a patient, you can provide support by participating in clinical trials and research studies to help improve and broaden the knowledge of the condition. Families can help by providing support to patients by taking them to appointments and asking questions that will help them understand the condition. Financial support for our research program can also help our work to advance our knowledge of the disease.

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