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How Smell Might Help Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

It can be difficult to tell if your senior loved one has Parkinson’s disease until symptoms like tremors and difficulty walking become noticeable, according to care professionals at Santa Clarita home care agencies. While there is no definitive test to detect PD in advance of presentable symptoms, a Scottish woman’s unique sense of smell has sparked a debate over whether or not a change in the body’s natural scent could serve as an early indication of Parkinson’s.

One Woman’s Tale

The wife of a man who recently died from Parkinson’s disease raised the possibility of a connection between smell and the progressive condition with an observation about her husband. Joy Milne reported noticing what she describes as a subtle “musky smell” from her husband six years before he was officially diagnosed with PD.

Testing Her Theory

Milne happened to mention her observation to a group of UK researchers. They decided to test her theory that there’s a connection between PD and smell by allowing her to smell t-shirts worn by a group that was divided evenly among those who had the condition and those who did not have Parkinson’s. She was able to identify all of the PD patients while also remaining adamant that one of the non-Parkinson’s participants had the condition. He was later diagnosed.

Possible Scientific Explanation

Scientists speculate that the reason for Milne’s ability to sense Parkinson’s by smell may be due to subtle changes in an oily substance produced by the skin called sebum. This theory is being tested in a study of a larger group of people with and without PD. Swabs taken from the participants will be analyzed chemically and evaluated by scent experts to determine if a pattern exists.

The idea of a possible link between PD and smell isn’t so far-fetched since scent has already been linked to other conditions. There’s prior research suggesting a connection between body smell and some forms on cancer and reports of increased instances of mouth odor in diabetics.

Parkinson’s can make completing routine tasks like bathing, cooking, and running errands more challenging. If your senior loved one could use additional support, reach out to Home Care Assistance. In addition to our Parkinson’s care, we also offer stroke, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care in Santa Clarita, providing seniors the help they need to live a high-quality life, regardless of personal ability. Give us a call today at 661.259.9914 for more information. We’re here to help.