There is currently no effective treatment for PSP, although scientists are searching for better ways to manage the disease. In some individuals the slowness, stiffness, and balance problems of PSP may respond to antiparkinsonian agents such as levodopa, or levodopa combined with anticholinergic agents or amantadine, but the effect is usually temporary. The speech, vision, and swallowing difficulties usually do not respond to any drug treatment.
Another group of drugs that has been of some modest success in PSP are antidepressant medications. The most commonly used of these drugs are fluoxetine (Prozac), amitriptyline (Elavil), and imipramine (Tofranil). The anti-PSP benefit of these drugs seems not to be related to their ability to relieve depression.
Non-drug treatment for PSP can take many forms. Individuals frequently use weighted walking aids because of their tendency to fall backward. Bifocals or special glasses called prisms are sometimes prescribed for people with PSP to remedy the difficulty of looking down. Formal physical therapy is of no proven benefit in PSP, but certain exercises can be done to keep the joints limber.
A surgical procedure that may be necessary when there are swallowing disturbances is a gastrostomy. A gastrostomy (or a jejunostomy) is a minimally invasive procedure which is performed when the person has difficulty swallowing or when severe choking is a definite risk. This surgery involves the placement of a tube through the skin of the abdomen into the stomach (intestine) for feeding purposes. Pallidotomy and other surgical procedures used in individuals with Parkinson's disease have not been proven effective in PSP.