New York: Alzheimer' disease is a heartbreaking condition mainly related to memory loss. It is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time.
Loss of memory is just the tip of the iceberg. Alzheimer's is like slow poison, gradually building up to the worst.
Recognizing the symptoms of Alzheimer's in the early stages can definitely help with the diagnosis and effective treatment, however, it isn't exactly easy. Moreover, most people wave the early signs as a phase or a momentary disorientation.
Now, a study has found that Alzheimer's can be detected in a person by carrying out a simple 'sniffing test'.
As per the research, the sense of smell declines sharply in the early stages of Alzheimer's and an odour identification test can help identify people at risk of developing the disease.
The researchers found the test useful for diagnosing a pre-dementia condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which often progresses to Alzheimer's dementia within a few years.
"There's the exciting possibility here that a decline in the sense of smell can be used to identify people at risk years before they develop dementia," said principal investigator David Roalf, Assistant Professor at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
Roalf and his colleagues used a simple, commercially available test known as the Sniffin' Sticks Odour Identification Test, in which people must try to identify 16 different odours.
They administered the sniff test, and a standard cognitive test (the Montreal Cognitive Assessment), to 728 elderly people.
Combining the two tests also enabled more accurate identification of healthy older adults and those with Alzheimer's dementia.
The combination even boosted accuracy in assigning people to milder or more advanced categories of mild cognitive impairment.
"These results suggest that a simple odour identification test can be a useful supplementary tool for clinically categorising MCI and Alzheimer's, and even for identifying people who are at the highest risk of worsening," Roalf said.
Neurologists have been eager to find new ways to identify people who are at high risk of Alzheimer's dementia but do not yet show any symptoms.
There is a widespread consensus that Alzheimer's medications now under development may not work after dementia has set in.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
(With IANS inputs)