Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a Parkinson’s-like neurological condition caused by the premature loss of nerve cells in certain parts of the brain. Over time this leads to difficulties with balance, movement, vision, speech and swallowing.
Research suggests around 4,000 people are living with PSP in the UK at any one time. In its early stages, symptoms can resemble those of other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Stroke or Multiple System Atrophy, with the result that initial misdiagnosis is common.
PSP is a very individual condition and symptoms can be experienced with varying degrees of severity and at different stages of progression. Early symptoms may include loss of balance, falls (often backwards), stiffness and eye problems – this might be difficulty in looking up or down, focusing, double or tunnel vision and dislike of bright lights. Some people can also experience behavioural and cognitive changes including depression and apathy.
PSP is associated with the build-up of a protein called tau in certain areas of the brain. The protein forms into clumps (neurofibrillary tangles), which are believed to damage the nerve cells.
Like many other chronic conditions there is currently no cure for PSP. However many of the symptoms can be managed to help achieve the best possible quality of life.
PSP tends not to run in families and the disease is not currently believed to be inherited. However research indicates that some people may have a genetic disposition which makes them more susceptible.