As we age, wisdom and knowledge come, but that’s not all. Entering into twilight years can put a person at risk for certain health issues. Everyone will not get affected by the disease; however, by being aware of disease conditions we can be cautious towards health. Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is one of the diseases that typically affects older people around the age of 60 and rarely occurs in people under the age of 40. PSP is a progressive brain disorder characterized by gait and balance difficulties and loss of eye coordination movements. As disorder name indicates that disease gets worsen (progressive) with time and can lead to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and swallowing problems. PSP disorder is caused by the deterioration of cells in a certain part of the brain above the nerve cell cluster called nuclei (supranuclear) that control movement, vision, and thinking.
The characteristic symptoms of progressive supranuclear palsy include-
- Difficult to balance: The very first symptom of PSP is loss of balance while walking
- Difficult to control eye movements: People face problems involuntarily shifting their gaze vertically and people experience blurred vision.
Symptoms can get worsen with time and may include:
- Stiffness and awkward movements
- Falling could lead to head injuries, fractures, and other injuries
- Problems in swallowing
- Sensitivity to light
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulties with memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making
- Depression and anxiety
The cause of progressive supranuclear palsy is unknown. Researchers have found that an abnormal amount of protein called tau is present in the deteriorating brain cells of people with progressive supranuclear palsy. Clumps of tau are also characteristic of other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The inheritance of this disorder is also not clear till now.
There is no cure for progressive supranuclear palsy, current treatment modalities just aim to ease symptoms of the disorder and delay the disease progression.
- Parkinson’s disease medications- PSP has similar kinds of symptoms to Parkinson’s, so medications used in Parkinson’s have been tried in PSP patients. Botox injection around your eye muscles can improve eyelid spasms.
- Bifocal eyeglasses may help in looking downward
- Speech and swallowing evaluations, to help you learn safer swallowing techniques.
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy may help to improve in making balance while walking.
Currently, there are no medications for progressive supranuclear palsy but drugs like levodopa, amantadine, and other drugs that are used for treating Parkinson’s disease are used. These drugs have been found to be little effect in people with early-stage PSP. The effect of these drugs can last for a few years and has been found to reduce stiffness and improve balance in patients.
Individuals with PSP often suffer from depression, in such cases, antidepressants are prescribed. These may also help individuals with sleeping problems, pain and stiffness, and balance.
Stem Cell Therapy for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)
Stem cell Therapy is coming up as a powerful new therapeutic strategy for a wide spectrum of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, etc. Stem cells are basic building blocks of the body that have unique characteristics of self-renewal and differentiation to different kinds of cells. Medical scientists are exploring the potential ability of stem cells to regenerate lost or damaged tissues to treat many diseases that are non-treatable with traditional therapies.
Stem cells can be extracted from the bone marrow and adipose tissue that provide an abundant supply of stem cells and thus are considered to be the most potent choice of stem cell suppliers. Bone marrow or adipose-derived stem cells differentiated into glial-like cells release a range of neurotrophic factors, which provides neuro-protection and neural-regenerative effects that further support the repairing of damaged nerves.
Recently a published case study of a 71-year-old patient with progressive supranuclear palsy showed no significant adverse events and delayed the progression of neurological deficits by achieving functional improvement in the follow-up period after having autologous adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells injection. Still, a lot needs to be explored to utilize the full potential of stem cell therapy. It is expected that continued research will pave the way for new treatment modalities devastating medical conditions like progressive supranuclear palsy. With these miracles of modern medicine, it will become possible to live a happier life over a longer period of time.
Alternative treatments for PSP
There are several other lifestyle choices one can make to cope up with progressive supranuclear palsy. Individuals with PSP should stay mentally, physically, and socially active as long as they are in a position to do so.
- Regular exercise keeps your physical health flexible and strong and vitalizes your mind. A physiotherapist can suggest safe exercises to deal with PSP. The use of walking aids can reduce the danger of falling and help the person.
- A balanced diet including low-fat proteins and plenty of fruits and vegetables should be consumed by patients. This helps in the prevention of malnutrition and constipation and maintains a healthy weight.
- Individuals should engage themselves in mental activities. Interactive activities like playing games, reading, puzzles, etc are advised to people with PSP. The activities are of optimum difficulty level in order to avoid frustration in the patients.
- Socializing with other people can prove to be effective for PSP patients. It stimulates the brain and is enjoyable for such individuals. A lot of senior centers and community centers have special activities which are appropriate for people with progressive supranuclear palsy.
- It should be noted that such individuals should avoid smoking as it could be dangerous in terms of health and safety.