Parkinson's disease is incurable but doctors are finding means to influence the course of the disease to facilitate patients to enjoy good quality of life for as many years as possible. 'Early detection' which is essential to fight such diseases is not possible in most cases due to inadequate methods for detecting its onset.
Parkinson's disease is a slow progressing neurological disease affecting people in the age group of 50 to 60 years. Scientists are yet to ascertain reasons for death of brain cells occurring in the substantia nigra located in the basal ganglia of the brain.
In this disease, Cell death causes shortage of a neurotransmitter called 'dopamine' which causes loss of control over involuntary and voluntary movements. Scientists suspect that it could be caused by genetic factors.
Researchers have found a link between sense of smell and Parkinson's disease. 'Hyposmia' which is a condition referring to loss of ability to smell without other known causes is regarded as an early indicator of the disease.
Neurologists from Cologne are using presence of Hyposmia as an early indicator of probable onset of Parkinson's disease. This was based on earlier findings which demonstrated that one in ten people detected with hyposmia develop Parkinson's disease later.
Dr. Ulrich Liebetrau, Chief Physician for Parkinson's consultations at Kliniken der Stadt Koln said that 'Smelling tests' in doctors' office or in public places are suitable for detecting hypsomia. He added that the objective of having public locations was to reach as many people suffering from hyposmia as possible.
This unusual method of trials included conducting smelling test on a Saturday in a banqueting hall in the pedestrian district of Cologne. In all, 187 participants smelt vanilla, lemon, lavender and cloves. 47 patients were identified as having hyposmia.
Since the disorder could have many causes, patients detected with hyposmia were referred for thorough examination by ENT specialists and neurologists. Of the 46 cases, three were detected with Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Liebetrau said that public smelling tests are best suited for increasing awareness about hyposmia. Although Parkinson's disease is incurable, early detection can avert the situation of the disease from becoming chronic.