What is Pick’s disease?
Pick’s disease is a kind of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s but far less common. It affects parts of the brain that control emotions, behavior, personality, and language. It’s also a type of disorder known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Your brain uses a transport system to help move around the nutrients it needs. This system is made of proteins that like railroad tracks guiding trains guide nutrients where they need to go. The proteins that keep the tracks straight are called tau proteins.
When you have Pick’s disease, the tau proteins don’t work the way they should. You may also have more of them in your brain than other people.
These abnormal clumps of tau proteins are called Pick bodies. Pick bodies “derail” your transport system. The track is no longer straight, and nutrients in the brain can’t get where they need to go. This causes brain damage that can’t be reversed.
How common is Pick’s disease?
Pick’s disease is a rare condition. It’s usually diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 75, but it can happen in people as young as 20. It affects more men than women. People of Scandinavian descent are at a slightly higher risk of getting it than others. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of Pick’s disease?
The common symptoms of Pick’s disease are:
- Act aggressively toward others
- Be uninterested in everyday activities
- Be very aware of everything you do all the time
- Feel irritable or agitated
- Have drastic and quick mood swings
- Have trouble feeling warmth, sympathy, or concern for others
- Have trouble with unplanned activities
- Make rash decisions
- Repeat actions over and over
- Say and do inappropriate things
Some people become hungry all the time, and some develop an unhealthy “sweet tooth” and eat much more sugar than they should.
Problems with language usually happen early in the disease. Pick bodies in the speech section of your brain can cause problems with:
- Recalling names of common objects
- Copying simple shapes with pencil and paper
- Understanding written words
- Speaking because of halted or stilted speech
Occasionally, people with Pick’s disease might also have:
- Memory loss
- Problems moving
- Stiff or weak muscles
- Trouble peeing
- Trouble with coordination
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes Pick’s disease?
Pick’s disease, along with other FTDs, is caused by abnormal amounts or types of nerve cell proteins, called tau. These proteins are found in all of your nerve cells. If you have Pick’s disease, they often accumulate into spherical clumps, known as Pick bodies or Pick cells. When they accumulate in the nerve cells of your brain’s frontal and temporal lobe, they cause the cells to die. This causes your brain tissue to shrink, leading to the symptoms of dementia.
Scientists don’t yet know what causes these abnormal proteins to form. But geneticists have found abnormal genes linked to Pick’s disease and other FTDs. They’ve also documented the occurrence of the disease in related family members.
What increases my risk for Pick’s disease?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is Pick’s disease diagnosed?
To find out if you have Pick’s disease, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and go over your medical history. Then you’ll have special tests that check your memory, behavior, language, and other mental functions. These are usually pencil and paper tests. You’ll answer questions in writing and may be asked to draw certain objects.
The doctor may also recommend a blood test that looks at your DNA to see if you have the gene that causes Pick’s disease.
To get a better picture of what’s happening in your brain, your doctor may order imaging tests, such as:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Powerful magnets and radio waves are used to make detailed images of your brain.
- Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A radioactive substance and a special camera create 3-dimensional pictures that show what areas of your brain are more or less active.
- You may also have a lumbar puncture. Your doctor will use a long needle to take a small amount of fluid from an area near your spine for screening. In rare cases, your doctor might want to take a small amount of your brain tissue to test. This is called a biopsy.
How is Pick’s disease treated?
There’s no cure for Pick’s disease, and medications can’t slow it down. It can progress slowly, but usually it steadily gets worse over time. Some people live as long as 10 years with the disease.
Your doctor can recommend treatment to help you deal with many of your symptoms. He may suggest behavioral therapy to help control any dangerous behavior and antidepressants to help with agitation or aggression.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Pick’s disease?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Pick Disease of the Brain: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. https://www.healthline.com/health/picks-disease#overview1. Accessed October 30, 2017.
What Is Pick's Disease? https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/picks-disease#1. Accessed October 30, 2017.
Review Date: October 30, 2017 | Last Modified: October 30, 2017