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Diagnosis and treatment for Pick's Disease

Posted on Thursday, 12 January 2012, in Dementia & Memory

What is Pick’s disease?

Symptoms and treatment of Pick’s disease

Pick’s disease is a condition closely related to ‘fronto-temporal lobar degeneration’ (FTLD) and is one of the rarer types of dementia. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease and some other forms of dementia, it usually affects people between 40 and 60. Slightly more women than men are affected, and it is not known what causes the disease, although some research indicates that there may be a genetic component.

What causes Pick’s disease?

Pick’s disease affects only the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, unlike Alzheimer’s which affects cells throughout the brain.

It produces small deposits in the brain, known as Pick’s bodies, made up of useless proteins. It is thought that the buildup of these bodies slowly kills off brain cells, causing dementia symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of Pick’s disease

The loss of brain cells causes the affected parts of the brain to shrink and reduces mental functioning. Because this process is very gradual, the patient may take a long time to diagnose, and in the early stages Pick’s is sometimes misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, depression or a mental illness.

Unlike dementias where memory loss is the first symptom, in Pick’s disease the earliest symptoms relate to personality and behavioural changes or a functional decline. These symptoms may only become noticeable two years or more after the onset of the disease.

Behavioural symptoms:

  • intense restlessness (an early symptom)
  • impulsiveness, poor judgement
  • changes in habits, such as overeating, craving unfamiliar foods, being rude when formerly polite
  • repetitive behaviour
  • inattention to personal hygiene
  • loss of sexual inhibition
  • aloofness from others; loss of interest in things around them
  • rapid mood changes

If you think you may need treatment,
call us to arrange a private consultation.

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Language symptoms

  • inability to remember words
  • loss of vocabulary
  • difficulty in speaking or understanding what others are saying
  • repeating what others say
  • loss of ability to read or write

Physical symptoms

  • memory loss
  • muscle stiffness
  • lack of coordination
  • general weakness
  • difficulty moving around (although in early stages roaming behaviour is common)
  • urinary incontinence

Treatment of Pick’s disease

Although Pick’s disease cannot be cured, it can be managed, particularly if diagnosed early.

The treatment for Pick’s generally focuses on helping people manage their symptoms and treating problems such as depression or mood changes:

  • Behaviour modification therapies can help reinforce appropriate behaviours to lessen the effects of negative behavioural symptoms.
  • Spectacles or hearing aids may help in dealing with the loss of sensory function.
  • Speech and/or occupational therapy may help improve movement and speech.

Anti-depressants have been shown to improve some symptoms, and serotonin-boosting drugs may help in impulse control and some other behavioural symptoms. However, he drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, such as Aricept, are of no use in alleviating the symptoms of Pick’s disease, and may even worsen it.

How Clinical Partners can help

Simply call our clinical team in confidence on 0203 326 9160 and we will recommend the most suitable therapist or support group for your individual situation.

Read more about our approach to assessment and diagnosis of Pick’s Disease.


Emilie Head

Emilie Head Business Development and Content Editor BA(Hons), ACMA, MBACP

Emilie has three main roles at Clinical Partners – managing our NHS Partnerships, developing the services our Clinicians offer and writing and editing web content.

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