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What is Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)?Photo

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is a rare neurological condition affecting parts of the brain that control walking, eye movements, balance, speech and swallowing. Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 60 and 70. It is not contagious, does not run in families and can affect men and women from all nationalities and lifestyles.

'P' Progressive:
means the symptoms get worse over time

'S' Supranuclear:
refers to the part of the brain that is affected

'P' Palsy:
means a weakness or paralysis in a part of the body


PSP has a wide range of symptoms, but few people experience them all and symptoms vary from person to person. It is a progressive condition, meaning that the symptoms tend to worsen over time. However, the severity and rate of symptom progression varies widely.

Symptoms can include:

  • Problems with walking (or ‘gait’). These may include stiffness, problems with balance and unexplained falls, particularly backwards.
  • A feeling of dizziness
  • Slow movements
  • Facial stiffness
  • Problems with eyesight or vision
  • Problems with thinking or changes in personality
  • Slurring of speech
  • Mild shaking of hands

People with PSP are at risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, head injury and fractures. As the condition progresses, these complications can cause death.


Cause We do not know what causes PSP, but it is associated with an overproduction of a protein called ‘tau’ in certain areas of the brain. Clumps of tau (called ‘tangels’) build up and these are believed to cause damage to nerve cells.


A variety of treatments and therapies are available to help manage the symptoms of PSP. It is important that people with PSP see a neurologist, preferably one with expertise in movement disorders such as PSP and Parkinson’s.

There is no known cure for PSP and we do not know any way of preventing it or slowing its progression. Research into PSP is currently underway, giving us hope for the future, particularly in relation to more effective management of symptoms.

Many doctors and health workers have little understanding of PSP and many have never treated anyone with the condition. Help Sheet 1.3: Information for health professionals pdf document (PDF File 66KB) offers information about the care and treatment of patients with PSP and can be individualised for a particular patient.

See Section 1: Introduction to PSP, from the PSP Information Kit  help sheet 1.1 What is PSP Help Sheet pdf document (PDF File 63KB).  To purchase a PSP Information kit about managing symptoms, staying independent and later in life issues and for further information please contact Parkinson's Victoria direct on (03) 8809 0400 or 1800 644 189.

Our Understanding PSP booklet pdf document (PDF File 760KB) also provides a basic introduction to the condition for the general community as well as people living with PSP and health professionals.

For PSP information and support phone Parkinson’s Victoria on 1800 644 189 or (03) 8809 0400.

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