sailor girlPick's Disease

Pick's disease is a very rare progressive condition. This type of dementia involves the frontal and temporal regions of the brain. Someone suffering from Pick's disease may exhibit changes to personality and behavior before changes to memory functioning are apparent.

The onset of Pick's disease is often before the age of 65 and is usually between the ages of 50 and 60 but can occur as early as age 20 and has been diagnosed at the age of 80. The progression of the illness can take from 2 years to more than 10 years. As noted, behavioral and personality disturbances are early prominent features. For example, the person may become disinhibited and make inappropriate comments in public, be rude or impatient. On the other hand, they may become withdrawn and appear depressed. Overeating can occur and as the disease progresses can evolve to compulsively placing objects in the mouth. As a result, a person with Pick's disease may be misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. In addition to the behavioral and personality changes, it is often characterized by decreased mental flexibility and reasoning and judgment impairments which are initially greater than any coexisting memory impairments.

Pick's cannot be diagnosed with 100% accuracy until autopsy when microscopic studies can be completed. Using silver-staining, Pick's is defined pathologically by the presence of Pick bodies also called inclusion bodies. These bodies disrupt the ability of the neurons (nerve cells) to work and lead to cell death.

Little is known about the genetics of Pick's disease. Most cases are thought to be sporadic with no other family member affected. However, there are reports of families with what appears to be inherited cases.

Like AD and DLB there is no cure for Pick's disease. Medications can sometimes be used to treat symptoms. However, the most effective treatment remains educating caregivers about the disease to enable them to cope better with the challenges of dealing with the changes this disease brings.

Condensed from an article by Daryl Bohac, PhD. University of Nebraska Medical Center/Geriatric Center

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