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Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a rare brain disorder that causes dementia and problems with walking and balance. About 20,000 Americans — or one in every 100,000 people over age 60 — have PSP. Symptoms are similar to other degenerative diseases of the brain, such as changes in behavior and difficulty with speech. Another characteristic symptom is lack of control of eye movement. These symptoms are caused by a gradual deterioration of brain cells at the base of the brain in an area called the brainstem.

Patients tend to be middle-age or elderly. Men are affected more often than women. The disease can be difficult to diagnose because it's rare and sometimes mistaken for Parkinson's disease.

As PSP progresses, patients are at greater risk for complications, such as choking, pneumonia, head injury and fractures caused by falls. The most common cause of death is pneumonia. With good medical care, however, may patients with PSP live well into their 70s and beyond.

Our Approach to Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Our team provides thorough evaluations and care for progressive supranuclear palsy. While there are no effective treatments yet, we are working to find them and can offer access to experimental therapies through ongoing clinical trials.

In addition, we treat patients with medications to improve symptoms. We may also recommend speech and physical therapy as well as devices such as weighted walking aids to prevent falling.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-neurology

    Best in California and No. 2 in the nation for neurology & neurosurgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.