Does Parkinson's Have a Distinct Scent?

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Parkinson’s Disease May Have a Unique Scent

By Glenn Krakow, 9:00 am on

According to El Dorado County senior home care professionals, several studies over the last few decades have focused on whether diseases like diabetes and cancer have a unique aroma. In fact, dogs have been trained to sniff out lung and breast cancer in tissue samples. Researchers are now investigating whether Parkinson’s disease can be diagnosed by smell after a retired nurse in Scotland claims to have detected the onset of Parkinson’s in her husband based on smell.

Joy Milne, a 65-year-old retired nurse, claims she noticed a subtle change in her husband’s smell shortly before his 40th birthday. Six years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and later died at the age of 65. While supporting the Parkinson’s UK charity, Milne noticed other people had the distinctive musky aroma she had noticed in her husband. After mentioning it to scientists during a discussion at the event, they tested her by presenting her with shirts worn by people with and without Parkinson’s.

According to one of the scientists, Milne correctly identified all six Parkinson’s patients based on the smell of their shirts, although she was insistent that one of the “control” subjects in the disease-free group had Parkinson’s as well. Eight months later, the control subject was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Scientists now have a theory that people with Parkinson’s experience a change in their sebum, the oily substance produced by the skin, early on. Parkinson’s UK is funding research to see if swabs can be used to detect Parkinson’s by a team of scent experts.

If a link is established between Parkinson’s and a unique aroma, it can make it easier to identify a disease that is already hard to diagnose. The only way to diagnose Parkinson’s today is to observe a patient for specific symptoms. Along with assisting with early diagnosis, establishing a unique aroma associated with Parkinson’s can make it easier to identify people for drug testing that may slow the progression.

Parkinson’s can make everyday activities more challenging to complete independently. If your aging loved one could use additional support, turn to Home Care Assistance. Our caregivers can help with a wide variety of tasks, including running errands, preparing healthy meals, bathing, personal grooming, and medication reminders. To learn more about any of our care services, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care in El Dorado County, please give us a call at (916) 358-3801 or (530) 409-4411 and speak with a dedicated Care Manager today.