Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Your doctor diagnoses progressive supranuclear palsy by identifying the disorder's key signs — problems with balance and walking and difficulty moving your eyes, particularly downward — and ruling out other similar disorders.
Progressive supranuclear palsy can be difficult to diagnose because some signs and symptoms, such as stiffness, movement difficulties and changes in mood or personality, are similar to those of Parkinson's disease and dementia. In fact, because of its similarity to Parkinson's disease, it's considered a "parkinsonism-plus syndrome." Indications that you have progressive supranuclear palsy rather than Parkinson's disease include a lack of shaking (tremors) and a poor response to Parkinson's medications, such as levodopa.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be helpful, as shrinkage of specific regions of the brain may indicate progressive supranuclear palsy, though more than just an MRI is needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Though a diagnosis can be made through this evaluation process, currently the only definitive way to determine whether a person has progressive supranuclear palsy is through a brain autopsy. This is important since other diseases can sometimes mimic the symptoms of progressive palsy. Studies are ongoing to develop medical tests that can help diagnose progressive supranuclear palsy.
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