What's the treatment for progressive supranuclear palsy?
Progressive supranuclear palsy cannot be cured. Drugs are sometimes given to relieve symptoms, but drug treatment is usually disappointing. Dopaminergic medications used in Parkinson's disease, such as levodopa (Sinemet), sometimes decrease stiffness and ease spontaneous movement. Anticholinergic medications, such as trihexyphenidyl (Artane), which restore function to neurotransmitters, or tricyclic drugs, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) may improve speech, walking,
and inappropriate emotional responses.
Speech therapy may help manage the swallowing and speech difficulty in PSP. As the disease progresses, the difficulty in swallowing may cause the patient to choke and get small amounts of food in the lungs. This condition can cause aspiration pneumonia. The patient may also lose too much weight. In these cases, a feeding tube may be needed. The home environment should be modified to decrease potential injury from falls. Walkers can be weighted in front, to prevent backward falls and handrails can be installed in the bathroom. Because the patient cannot look down, low objects like throw rugs and coffee tables should be removed. Dry eyes from infrequent blinking can be treated with drops or ointments.
The patient's condition gradually deteriorates. After about seven years, balance problems and stiffness make it nearly impossible for the patient to walk. Persons with progressive supranuclear palsy become more and more immobile and unable to care for themselves. Death is not caused by the PSP itself. It is usually caused by pneumonia related to choking on secretions or by starvation related to swallowing difficulty. It usually occurs within 10 years, but if good general health and nutrition are maintained, the patient may survive longer.