A fading sense of smell may be an important indicator of onset of Parkinson's disease, according to Northwestern University researchers.
Many individuals with Parkinson's disease are able to recall losing their sense of smell well before the onset of more commonly recognized symptoms such as tremors, impaired dexterity, speech problems, memory loss and decreased cognitive ability.
The team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine are conducting a study to examine the correlation and ascertain whether smell loss presents a tool for early detection of the disease and an opportunity to delay or ultimately prevent more troublesome symptoms.
"Very little is known about the early stages of this disease," said Tanya Simuni, MD, director of Northwestern's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Centre and Associate Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.
"By utilizing smell testing in conjunction with other tests, we hope to develop a system that identifies the presence of Parkinson's before it develops into problematic symptoms.
"This study presents an enormous opportunity to not only better understand the initial stages of Parkinson's, but also help future generations.
"In the future, early detection combined with neuroprotective therapy may pave the way for interventions that slow the progression or even prevent the onset of Parkinson's disease," she added.