The latest development in Alzheimer’s research is a test that can diagnose patients more quickly, easily and accurately — making it a boon to doctors and families alike.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that is often characterized by the loss of memory; is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases worldwide. The Alzheimer Association reports that 5.4 million Americans are coping with the disease, and one-third of all seniors pass away from Alzheimer’s compared to any other form of dementia.
While the majority of older Americans report some kind of chronic illness, a new test can possibly enhance and speed up the Alzheimer’s diagnosis process.
Currently, there is no one diagnosis for the disease. Instead patients must endure multiple physical and neurological examinations, mental state tests, blood tests, brain scanning, and a complex evaluation of their medical history. This can be quite a lengthy process, so researchers have created a simple smell test to detect the disease.
Research has shown that a person’s sense of smell diminishes when living with Alzheimer’s, and plenty of olfactory testing and research found that patients with a weaker smell were more likely to have the same brain abnormalities common with the disease.
The study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine goes on to support this finding, showing that those who had reduced smelling abilities went on to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s.
During the study, researchers looked at the smelling habits of 728 senior adults; 292 were healthy, 262 had Alzheimer’s, and 174 had MCI. A person’s sense of smell was calculated using Sniffin’ Sticks Odor Identification Test (SS-OIT), which had each patient identify 16 different smells. Along with standard cognitive tests, researchers combined their data to find if any of the healthy patients developed Alzheimer’s down the line.
All in all, they found that the SS-OIT test significantly increased diagnosis accuracy. Before when doctors simply used cognitive tests, their diagnosis accuracy was at 75%, but when the SS-OIT test was used, accuracy jumped to 87%, with a much lower investment of time and resources.
This smell test has shown to be so significant in diagnosing patients that the research team plans on further developing a simplified version so this testing can be used worldwide.