Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, balance, speech, vision, and cognition. While PSP is often characterized by its common symptoms, such as difficulties with eye movement, gait disturbances, and speech problems, it can also present with a range of lesser-known symptoms that can impact the quality of life for patients and their caregivers. This blog post will explore some of these uncommon symptoms and offer tips and tricks for coping with them.
Lesser-known Symptoms of PSP
- Sleep disturbances
Sleep problems are not uncommon in PSP patients, and they can manifest in various ways, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder. These sleep disturbances can lead to daytime fatigue and exacerbate other PSP symptoms.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes activities such as reading, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the evening.
- Keep the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet to promote a better sleep environment.
- Consult a sleep specialist if sleep disturbances persist, as they may be able to recommend treatments or therapies to improve sleep quality.
- Swallowing difficulties
Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a less common symptom of PSP that can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, and aspiration pneumonia. Swallowing problems can be caused by muscle weakness, impaired coordination, or issues with the timing of swallowing reflexes.
- Consult a speech and language therapist for a swallowing assessment and recommendations for managing dysphagia.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals and take your time while eating.
- Opt for soft or pureed foods that are easier to swallow.
- Maintain an upright position while eating and for at least 30 minutes after a meal.
- Consider using a thickening agent to modify the consistency of liquids, making them easier to swallow and less likely to cause aspiration.
- Urinary incontinence
Some PSP patients may experience urinary incontinence, which can result from a combination of muscle weakness, impaired coordination, and cognitive changes. This symptom can be distressing and have a significant impact on daily life.
- Schedule regular bathroom breaks throughout the day to reduce the risk of accidents.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can irritate the bladder and increase the urge to urinate.
- Consider using incontinence products, such as pads or absorbent underwear, for added protection and peace of mind.
- Consult a healthcare professional for advice on managing incontinence, as medications or pelvic floor exercises may be beneficial.
- Sensory changes
Some PSP patients may experience changes in their sensory perception, including altered taste, smell, or pain sensitivity. These changes can affect a person's ability to enjoy food, detect hazards, or accurately assess their own well-being.
- Experiment with different food textures, flavors, and spices to make meals more enjoyable and compensate for altered taste or smell.
- Use caution when handling hot or cold items, as reduced pain sensitivity could increase the risk of burns or frostbite.
- Regularly check for injuries or signs of infection, as diminished pain perception might make it difficult to recognize when something is wrong.
- Emotional lability
Emotional lability, also known as pseudobulbar affect or involuntary emotional expression disorder, refers to sudden, uncontrollable episodes of laughing or crying that may not match the person's feelings. This symptom can be embarrassing and distressing for both the PSP patient and their loved ones.
- Educate family members and friends about emotional lability, so they understand that these emotional outbursts are involuntary and not a reflection of the person's true feelings.
- Develop strategies for managing emotional outbursts in public, such as having a pre-planned response or using humor to defuse the situation.
- Consult a healthcare professional, as medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants may help manage emotional lability.
- Consider joining a support group or seeking therapy to help cope with the emotional challenges of living with PSP.
- Cognitive and behavioral changes
While cognitive impairment is a well-known symptom of PSP, some patients may also experience less common cognitive and behavioral changes, such as apathy, impulsivity, or obsessive-compulsive tendencies. These changes can significantly impact relationships and daily functioning.
- Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps to help maintain focus and motivation.
- Establish routines and create visual reminders or checklists to assist with organization and task completion.
- Encourage social engagement and participation in activities that the person with PSP enjoys to combat apathy and improve overall well-being.
- Seek professional help from a neuropsychologist or therapist for guidance on managing cognitive and behavioral changes, as well as support for both the PSP patient and their caregivers.
Progressive supranuclear palsy is a complex disorder that can present with a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be lesser-known but still have a significant impact on the lives of patients and their caregivers. By understanding these uncommon symptoms and implementing practical coping strategies, it is possible to improve the quality of life for those living with PSP. In addition to the tips provided in this post, it is essential to maintain open communication with healthcare professionals, as they can offer invaluable support, guidance, and resources for managing the challenges posed by this rare neurological condition.