It’s no news that loss of smell is linked to COVID-19, but did you know that smell loss (anosmia) or changes in how you perceive smells (parosmia) has also been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s?
A study in 2017 found that test subjects who were asked to identify five smells and could only name two were nearly 80% more likely to develop dementia within five years.
Fortunately, a new type of smell test, developed by Queen Mary University could help doctors diagnose these diseases much earlier, before other, more widely recognised symptoms become apparent. For Parkinson’s, the researchers believe that smell changes can be picked up as much as ten years before problems with movement occur.
Early diagnosis can potentially offer more therapy options to patients living with these diseases, so this could be great news for people with dementia.
Currently, scratch and sniff smell kits are being used by doctors to determine how well a patient can detect certain smells, but this test is often inaccurate.
However, a new, capsule-based test gives more control over how much of the odour gets released for a more reliable indication of what’s really going on with your sense of smell.
Now, it’s up to the scientists to fine-tune the strength of each smell to give the right threshold for each disease.
Before long, you may even be seeing these tests as an alternative to the invasive lateral flow COVID tests that we’ve been subjecting ourselves to so far.
Our noses can tell us so much about our overall health and it’s been ignored for so long, it’s been dubbed the “forgotten sense”. One benefit of the COVID pandemic is that otolaryngologists (medics specialising in ears, nose and throat) have been given a wealth of olfactory data, with many coronavirus sufferers reporting long-term changes to their sense of smell and taste. Let’s hope this paves the way for more intensive studies in this field.
Sense of smell has been linked to other cognitive abilities. A study revealed that an improvement in recognising different scents can increase verbal skills.
If you feel like your olfactory apparatus could do with sharpening up, you may find smell training useful. Smell training is a therapy offered to people who’ve lost their sense of smell through accidents or viral infections, where they sniff four different essential oils twice a day over a three-month period.
If you’ve got any questions about smell and taste changes in your loved one with dementia, Rosie and the team can help you understand it better so you can make mealtimes more manageable. Call the 24-hour support line for advice.