POST TIME: 4 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
Occupational therapy for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)
Rabeya Ferdous

Occupational therapy for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)

Progressive supranuclear palsy,  is an uncommon brain disorder that causes serious problems with walking, balance and eye movements. It is also called Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome.

The disorder results from deterioration of cells in areas of your brain that control body movement and thinking.

Progressive supranuclear palsy worsens over time and can lead to life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia and swallowing problems. There's no cure for progressive supranuclear palsy, so treatment focuses on managing the signs and symptoms.

What causes PSP?

PSP occurs when brain cells in certain parts of the brain are damaged as a result of a build-up of a protein called tau.

Tau occurs naturally in the brain and is usually broken down before it reaches high levels. In people with PSP, it isn't broken down properly and forms harmful clumps in brain cells. The amount of abnormal tau in the brain can vary among people with PSP, as can the location of these clumps. This means the condition can have a wide range of symptoms.

The condition has been linked to changes in certain genes, but these genetic faults are not inherited and the risk to other family members, including children or siblings of someone with PSP, is very low.

Symptoms of PSP include:

Problems with balance and mobility, including frequent falls.

Changes in behaviour, such as irritability or apathy (lack of interest)

Muscle stiffness.

An inability to control eye and eyelid movement, including focusing on specific objects or looking up or down at something.

Slowness of thought and some memory problems


There's currently no cure for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and no treatment to slow it down, but there are lots of things that can be done to help manage the symptoms.

As PSP can affect many different areas of your health, you'll be cared for by a team of health and social care professionals working together. This is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

Members of your MDT may include:

 Neurologist – a specialist in conditions that affect the brain and nerves

Occupational Therapist – who can help you improve the skills you need for daily activities, such as washing or dressing

Physiotherapist – who can help with movement and balance difficulties

Speech and language therapist – who can help with speech or swallowing problems

Social worker – who can advise you about the support available from social services

Ophthalmologist or orthoptist – specialists in treating eye conditions

Specialist neurology nurse – who may act as your point of contact with the rest of the team

Occupational therapy treatment

An occupational therapist (OT) can advise you about how you can increase your safety, and prevent trips and falls during your day-to-day activities.

For example, many people with PSP benefit from having bars placed along the sides of their bath to make it easier for them to get in and out.

The OT will also be able to spot potential hazards in your home that could lead to a fall, such as poor lighting, badly secured rugs and crowded walkways and corridors.