Test for Alzheimer's disease is really on the nose

You all know how difficult it is for those in the medical profession to come up with a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease. There are a multitude of both mental and physical tests that are used to detect the condition however, a new study has revealed that improving the accuracy of your diagnosis could be as simple as a sniff.

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The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently published new findings that tested the sense of smell of a small group of older adults using the Sniffin’ Sticks Odor Identification Test (SS-OIT). The participants in the study were patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or considered completely healthy. They were asked to sniff 16 different odours and identify them, as well as undergo simple cognitive testing.

What the research team assessed was the accuracy of the cognitive tests on their own in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in combination with the SS-OIT. The team found the SS-OIT significantly increased the accuracy of the diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease by more than 10 per cent (75 per cent accuracy with cognitive testing alone, 87 per cent when including SS-OIT).

“These results suggest a simple odour identification test can be a useful supplementary tool for clinically categorising MCI and Alzheimer’s, and even identifying people who are at the highest risk of worsening,” says David Roalf, an assistant professor at the Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

This is not the first time a sniff test has been thought to aid in the detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Previous studies have suggested that your sense of smell diminishes with the condition.

The research team is now working on a more efficient sniff test that remains as accurate as the current test, which can take between 5 and 8 minutes to complete.

Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease? Share your thoughts with us on this issue.