How the Sense of Smell Might Detect Parkinson’s

By 9  am On


New research has shown the human nose is capable of detecting one trillion odors, but there are relatively few people who can detect subtle changes in body odor. One of these “super smellers” is a Scottish woman named Joy Milne. Her observation that people with Parkinson’s have a distinct smell is inspiring researchers to investigate whether scent signatures can be used for earlier diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. 

Pinpointing the Source

Scientists working with Milne were surprised when she said the musky odor she’d noticed emanated from the shirt collars of males with Parkinson’s rather than from their armpits. Some researchers believe the odor can be traced to the body’s sebaceous glands, which are located in the skin on the face and back. These glands emit a substance called sebum. Researchers have long associated changes in sebum production with Parkinson’s but are just beginning to connect the scent produced with the disease. 

Parkinson’s disease can limit the ability to perform daily tasks independently. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Assisting Hands Home Care, a Senior Care Frederick agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

Understanding Scent Signatures

While the sebum scent correlation is promising, there are thousands of different molecules on the skin that could be responsible for the so-called “Parkinson’s scent.” Potential causes include the characteristic protein clumps found in the brains of individuals with Parkinson’s. These clumps also appear on the skin. Bacteria attracted to the unique molecular structure of the skin of people with the disease are a possibility as well.

Caring for a senior loved one with Parkinson’s can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. The type of homecare services Frederick seniors need can vary. Some need assistance a few hours a day, while others require more extensive around-the-clock assistance. At Assisting Hands Home Care, we tailor our care plans based on each senior’s individual care needs, and the plans can be adjusted at any time. We are a trusted provider of respite and 24-hour care, and we also offer specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and stroke care for seniors.

Using Tools for Early Detection

With several studies underway, the hope is that medical professionals will soon have new tools like skin swabs, biosensors, or even detection dogs at their disposal that allow for an earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Catching the disease early on also offers opportunities to find treatments that can slow or stop its progression. Thanks to the sensitive nose of Ms. Milne, whose husband passed away from the disease, it may soon be possible to detect Parkinson’s by analyzing a person’s signature scent.

Living with serious health conditions can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in care. Frederick seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more. If you need professional home care for your aging loved one, our Care Managers are just a phone call away. Reach out to Assisting Hands Home Care today.