Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)

Article published on 28th July 2008

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Following on from our last article on diseases of and in the brain, 'Progressive Supranuclear Palsy' (PSP) is a quite rare degenerative disorder that involves the gradual degeneration and cellular death of particular areas of the brain.

As said, the condition is rare, with approximately only six people in every one hundred thousand having it. There also appear to be no racial, geographical, genetic or gender specific predilection for the condition

The early symptoms in most cases include a loss of balance and falls, although as with many brain diseases and conditions other symptoms can include changes in personality, a general slowing of movement and ocular dysfunctions.

As the condition progresses other symptoms are likely to develop, including the onset of dementia, often including loss of inhibition and the ability to organize information. Symptoms can also include the slurring of speech, difficulty moving the eyes (especially upwards) and a difficulty swallowing. Other signs can often include poor eyelid function, contraction of facial muscles, stiffening neck muscles and a backwards tilt to the head, insomnia, constipation and urinary incontinence.

It is the ocular, or visual, dysfunctions that are of particular importance in the diagnosis of this condition - particularly with voluntary eye movement (the inability to look up or down and double-vision accounts for many of the falls experienced by people with this condition).

Unfortunately there is no consistently effective treatment available for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy as yet. The average age of symptoms onset tends to be 63, so there are plenty of cases where this condition manifests while the sufferers are still at working age - hence it being included in Critical Illness Insurance cover.

Sources:

http://www.psp.org/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/medical_notes/461557.stm

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