Doctors use sense of smell to diagnose dementia
Is there an easy way to diagnose dementia? Apparently it is possible to diagnose the disease early on using a so-called olfactory test. Researchers found that the sense of smell worsened significantly in early stages of dementia.
The University of Pennsylvania scientists found in an investigation that dementia can be detected early by a simple test of the sense of smell. The doctors published a press release with the results of their study.
Test helps in early detection of mild cognitive impairment
The American experts suspect that the reason for the worsening smell is the build-up of toxic lumps in the brain. The identification of smells could therefore be used in the future for the early diagnosis of dementia. The simple test only takes about five minutes. With the help of this new method, slight cognitive impairments could be determined, which are considered to be a sign of dementia, explain the doctors.
The study included almost 730 subjects
For their study, the University of Pennsylvania medical team examined 728 elderly people. The subjects had to identify 16 different smells in an odor test. The test was developed in Germany and is available online. A standard cognitive test was also used to examine the functioning of the brain.
Combination of smell and cognitive tests enables accurate diagnosis
Then the participants were divided into one of three neurological categories. These included the groups: healthy older adult, person with mild cognitive impairment and person with Alzheimer's dementia. The cognitive test was only effective in diagnosing 75 percent of people, the researchers say. However, this value increased to 87 percent when the results of the odor test were included. This finding could become particularly important in the future because the number of dementias will increase drastically.
Can dementia be identified years before it developed?
The possibility of using the decrease in sense of smell as a means of early identification of dementia is extremely interesting. This could identify the disease years before it developed, explains study author David Roalf. The results suggest that a simple odor identification test can be a useful complementary tool for the clinical categorization of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's, the expert adds.
Bad results in odor tests indicate Alzheimer's disease
Last year, researchers at the recognized Mayo Clinic found that poor results in older people's olfactory tests are often signs of memory loss over the next three and a half years. Older people with a bad sense of smell were at the highest risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Doctors warn: Bad smell is not always related to dementia
However, experts warn that there are many different reasons for a worsening of the sense of smell later in life. The condition does not necessarily have to be an indicator of the development of dementia. For example, smoking and exposure to harmful particles in the air can lead to a deterioration in the sense of smell. Age also means that the nose generally produces less mucus. This mucus helps keep the smells in your nose for a long time. There the smells are then recognized by the nerve endings and a message is transmitted to the brain, the authors say. (as)