Compared with Alzheimer's disease, which accounts
for 50 to 60 percent of dementia cases, Pick's disease accounts for about
Pick's disease was first identified in 1892 by Dr. Arnold Pick, who described progressive mental deterioration in a 71-year-old man. On autopsy, his brain showed unusual shrinkage of the frontal cortex, the region involved in reasoning and other higher mental functions. Cortex shrinkage is different from the anatomical changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease. The brains of people with Pick's disease also show unusual protein deposits (Pick bodies).
Ironically, the first person with Pick's disease was not typical. The condition is more common in women than men, and most sufferers develop it between age 40 and 60. It is rare in people over 75.
Pick's disease causes symptoms different from Alzheimer's: less disorientation and memory loss early on, and more personality changes, and loss of social restraints. But as the disease progresses, profound dementia develops until eventually sufferers are mute, immobile, and incontinent.
Pick's disease is diagnosed in a process similar to Alzheimer's. Frequently, an affected individual is diagnosed with "probable Alzheimer's" and later, the diagnosis is changed to Pick's.
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