Pick’s disease, also called frontotemporal dementia, is a rare genetic disorder and form of dementia that most often affects individuals younger than sixty-five years old. Typically, the condition affects behavior, personality, judgment, and language skills. Symptoms include drastic mood swings, repetitive behaviors, social withdrawal and isolation, depression, lack of empathy, and being impulsive. A definitive diagnosis of this disease is made through blood tests, neurological examinations, brain scans, speech tests, and interviews with family members. The average life expectancy is between two to seven years after diagnosis, and some individuals live for a decade. Pick’s disease cannot be cured, and treatments are used to manage symptoms. The interventions described below can help Pick’s disease patients improve their quality of life.
Antidepressants help reduce the aggression, irritability, loss of interest, and withdrawal that are common with Pick’s disease. They can benefit patients by calming them and flattening out mood swings so they are less drastic. For patients with Pick’s disease, doctors typically choose to start with drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that increases levels of the hormone serotonin in the brain. Citalopram, fluvoxamine, sertraline, and fluoxetine are SSRIs patients generally tolerate well. Possible side effects include fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness. Patients taking antidepressants should be monitored closely by their doctors for any mood changes or suicidal thoughts. Occasionally, they may cause a fast heartbeat, and any cardiac concerns should be reported to the healthcare professional who put the patient on the medication originally.
When switching from one antidepressant to another, adding additional antidepressants to an active treatment regimen, or stopping an antidepressant, patients and their doctors should work together to taper the dosages on a gradual schedule. Discontinuing an antidepressant suddenly can result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as vivid dreams, insomnia, muscle aches, chills, tingling sensations, and a recurrence of depression symptoms.
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