Some people are familiar with frontotemporal dementia, a condition in which the frontal lobes of the brain degenerate, but fewer are familiar with a specific form of the condition, known as Pick’s disease. The following is some basic information about Pick’s disease.
What is it?
Pick’s disease is named after Arnold Pick, the doctor who first described it in 1892. For many years Pick’s disease was used as an umbrella term for all forms of frontotemporal dementia. However, in more recent years, the term Pick’s disease has once again been applied only to this specific form of dementia.
In Pick’s disease, a specific form of tau proteins (called Pick bodies) proliferate and build up in the brain. Tau proteins are an important component in stabilizing something called microtubules in the nervous system. People with Alzheimer’s and with Parkinson’s also have tau protein issues, but the proteins found in Pick’s disease are specific to this condition.
Because accessing and assessing tau proteins in the brain is difficult to do, most cases of Pick’s disease are differentiated from other forms of dementia by the symptoms and the way they present. For example, while memory loss is a typical symptom of Pick’s disease, it generally occurs later in the progression of the condition than in Alzheimer’s. It is more typical for a person with Pick’s to suffer aphasia, an inability to comprehend and formulate language, early on instead. Behavioral changes, which may include delusions, disinhibition, lack of empathy, or anxiety, may also occur fairly early. Typically memory loss and severe cognitive issues will occur somewhat later in the progression of the disease.
No cure exists for Pick’s disease, and treatment focuses on the symptoms as no treatment is currently known for the disease itself. Doctors will work with caregivers to develop strategies for treating or reducing confusion, anxiety, and other issues. In some cases, behavioral modification therapy may help in controlling disruptive behaviors.
Home caregivers whose loved ones have the form of dementia known as Pick’s disease will need to work closely with a doctor to determine appropriate courses of action. It is also strongly suggested that they align themselves with a support group, either in person or online.