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How Scent Could Change the Way Parkinson’s Is Diagnosed

By Ilse du Bernard, 9:00 am on

As a leading provider of Woodlands senior home care, we pride ourselves on delivering valuable information to local families and their elderly loved ones, which is why we want to use this blog to share interesting new research that could change how Parkinson’s is diagnosed, allowing for earlier medical intervention.

Because of one woman’s claim that she detected her husband’s Parkinson’s disease by his distinct odor, researchers at the University of Manchester are studying the phenomena. Parkinson’s disease has long been known to affect a patient’s sense of smell, but this is the first evidence that patients themselves emit a distinct aroma.

Joy Milne of Scotland claims to have discovered her late husband’s Parkinson’s disease through his scent. She says his smell changed gradually over several years to a “musky smell.” When she mentioned this to members of Parkinson’s UK, a British charitable organization, they tested her.

By smelling clothing worn by six Parkinson’s patients and six control subjects, she was able to detect each Parkinson’s patient. To add to her accuracy, she was able to determine one of the control subjects had Parkinson’s, even though the subject had not yet been diagnosed with the disease.

Now the University of Manchester is studying the situation more in depth. Researchers intend to take skin swabs from patients and control subjects to look for any telltale signs in skin oils, or sebum. In addition, skin tissue will be analyzed at the molecular level for signs of the disease.

Research for this study is being funded by Parkinson’s UK and more than 200 subjects are to be tested. It isn’t the first time smell has been used to detect a disease, however. There is evidence that dogs can detect cancer in humans because cancer cells emit chemicals distinct from normal tissue.

If the research demonstrates a clear chemical marker for Parkinson’s, it could be possible to diagnose Parkinson’s much earlier than at present. Currently, PD isn’t usually diagnosed until someone is showing outward signs, at which point PD has sometimes already been present for a number of years.

Parkinson’s can make completing daily responsibilities more challenging. If your senior loved one could use additional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to Home Care Assistance. We offer live-in, hourly, and respite care in The Woodlands, ensuring seniors with Parkinson’s have the support they need to maintain a high quality of living in the comfort of home. Call a dedicated Care Manager at 832-412-1345 for more information.