Although there is no cure for progressive supranuclear palsy (or a way to slow it down or reverse it), experts have found some promising treatments to help manage some of your symptoms and improve your quality of life. These treatments include:
- Antiparkinsonian medications.
- Antidepressant medications.
- Surgery (a gastrostomy).
Antiparkinsonian medications: These oral (by mouth) medicines are typically used to help patients with Parkinson’s disease, but they can help with progressive supranuclear palsy as well. They can help – temporarily – with balance, stiff muscles and slow movements, and tremor if tremor is present. They don’t work for every single patient. The most commonly prescribed in PSP medications include:
- Levodopa (Rytary®, Sinemet®).
- Levodopa with anticholinergic agents.
- Amantadine (Symmetrel®).
Antidepressant medications: These oral medicines help with clinical depression. Even if there is no formal diagnosis of depression, they are still sometimes used because they can help with your general resilience and ability to cope. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac®).
- Amitriptyline (Elavil®).
- Imipramine (Tofranil®).
Unfortunately vision, speech and difficulty swallowing do not respond to any drug treatment.
Therapy: Four types of therapy – physical, occupational, mental health and speech-language – can help with some effects of progressive supranuclear palsy.
- Physical: Physical therapy will help keep your joints flexible.
- Occupational: Occupational therapy helps to prevent falls by teaching you to use weighted walking aids.
- Mental health: Mental health therapy is counseling with a therapist who can help you improve your coping techniques. A social worker can also help you with overall needs including appropriate care settings.
- Speech-language: Speech and language therapists can help you improve your speaking and swallowing problems.
Surgery: As your progressive supranuclear palsy worsens, you might reach the point where you can’t swallow at all, which prevents you from eating and drinking. Before that point, your healthcare provider may recommend that you get a gastrostomy. A gastrostomy is a procedure in which the surgeon inserts a tube through your abdomen into your stomach. Your food, medications and liquids will enter your body through the tube.
Your healthcare provider might also recommend special eye glasses with prism lenses. Prism lenses will help you look down, which PSP patients are unable to do on their own.
How can I treat my depression and irritability?
See a psychiatrist for medication and a therapist for counseling. Ask your primary healthcare provider for referrals.
What should I avoid eating or drinking with this condition?
There are no foods that improve progressive supranuclear palsy or worsen it. However, you should always drink water, eat healthy and exercise (under your healthcare provider’s supervision).
As your symptoms progress, you may find eating and drinking more difficult because you’ll have difficulty swallowing. Be sure to adjust your diet to avoid choking. The muscles in your throat may not be able to direct your food and water down the right “pipe” – that is, into your stomach and not your lungs. This is dangerous because you could choke, or you could possibly get pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can and can’t eat and drink as your condition progresses.