Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Symptoms

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) affects 1 in 10,000 Americans. Men and women are equally affected. Symptoms of the disease typically begin between ages 45 to 85, with peak onset in the 60s.

Early symptoms can include:

  • Slowing of movement
  • Unsteadiness of balance, leading to falls
  • Changes in speech, mood, cognition, and behavior, usually in a subtle manner (For example, a person can become apathetic, or seem slow to comprehend new information.)
  • Vision problems, including blurriness, dryness, or difficulty focusing and following 

The early symptoms are often attributed to the aging process; however, after a few months, it becomes increasingly apparent that the changes are not part of normal aging. 

The Course of the Disease

The disease affects different people differently. There is a worsening in neurological function over the course of 5 to 10 years, but the rate of change and the symptoms can vary.

As the disease progresses, patients may experience:

  • Movements becoming slower
  • Postural instability, leading to recurrent falls (many are backwards falls, especially when changing direction) 
  • Hand function becoming less skilled 
  • Cognition can be affected, leading to confusion and dementia
  • Emotions can become more heightened, for example, laughing or crying at minor stimuli 
  • Depression
  • Speech and swallowing functions becoming more impaired
  • In very advanced PSP, maintaining proper nutrition becomes a dominant issue, and declining lung clearance is a common final stage

Symptomatic Treatment

While there is not currently a cure for PSP nor a treatment that slows the rate of progression, there are treatments that can alleviate some of the symptoms, such as motor slowing, insomnia, emotional volatility, swallowing difficulty, muscle spasms, eyelid closure, and to some extent fall risk.