Causes Of Pick Disease Of The Brain: Symptoms And Treatment

Pick disease is a rare disease of brain that leads to progressive and irreversible dementia. The disease has many similarities with Alzheimer’s disease, but it is less common than the Alzheimer’s disease. Pick disease is also known as fronto-temporal dementia. This is because the degeneration of brain cells occurs in frontal and temporal region of the brain. The frontal and temporal area of brain control personality, emotions, behavior, memory and language.

Hence people suffering from Pick disease lack in all these traits. This will have drastic change in their personality.

In Alzheimer disease various parts of brain degenerate. Too much assimilation of tau protein in frontal and temporal area is known to cause degeneration of brain cells and shrinkage. The abnormal clumps of tau protein are called Pick bodies. The disease usually occurs between the age of 40 to 80 years.

Pick disease is incurable. Treatment is aimed at reducing distressing symptoms. Usually patients die within 10 years once the disease is detected. Patient dies due to complications, mainly infection in respiratory tract or urinary tract etc.

What Causes Pick’s Disease?

Pick disease as well as various other forms of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) occur due to abnormality in the nerve cell protein called tau protein. Normally the function of tau protein is to direct the nutrient into different parts of brain. However, for reasons unknown, tau protein in frontal and temporal region of these patients accumulates in excess and form clumps.

The clumps of tau protein inhibit proper distribution of nutrient to the brain cells in frontal and temporal region. Hence brain cells in this area die gradually and the brain shrinks in size. The exact cause why this abnormality develops in some individual is still unclear, but according to some geneticists certain abnormal gene are linked to cause Pick’s disease. The disease is usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 40 to 75. Men are affected more than women.

Signs And Symptoms Of Pick’s Disease

The symptoms of Pick disease progressively increase in severity. It may take years for progression of the disease. Due to damage and degeneration in the frontotemporal area of brain, patient has change in his behavior and personality. Fault in these traits are first to develop. Gradually various other symptoms follow. They are as follows:

  • Sudden change in mood.
  • Lack of interest in daily work or activities. Patient manifests various symptoms of depression.
  • Avoid interacting socially with people which once he used to do.
  • Patient has difficulty in keeping his job.
  • He becomes anxious and troubled when faces a circumstance or activity that is not planned.
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Lack of emotions
  • Memory weak
  • Cannot speak properly
  • Reading and writing becomes difficult.
  • The vocabulary of patient becomes reduced day by day.
  • Repeats one action several times.
  • Shaking and difficulty in walking. Patient has poor coordination.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Pick’s Disease

Diagnosis of Pick disease is made with following methods:

  • Medical history of the patient.
  • Detailed clinical examination.
  • Learning the behavior of patient and interviewing patient’s family members and friends to know about his behavior.
  • Radiological tests such as MRI of brain, CT scan. These tests will help to confirm the diagnosis as the degeneration in frontal and temporal area of brain is visible.
  • Blood test to rule out other causes of dementia such as vitamin B12 deficiency, syphilis, hypothyroidism etc.

Pick disease cannot be cured. Even progression of symptoms cannot be stopped or slowed down once the disease is diagnosed. However, antidepressants and anti psychotic medicines are frequently prescribed to these patients for treating changes that occur in person’s behavior and emotions. Personal hygiene and self care needs to be monitored for the patient.

Due to degeneration of brain, eventually patient will need 24 hour care. Patient usually lives for not more than 10 years after the disease is diagnosed. Death is caused due to several complications such as septicemia due to respiratory tract infection or urinary tract infection.

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