Like Others With Parkinson’s, My Sister Lost Her Sense of Smell
My sister Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), is delighted when the spring equinox arrives in Ohio, where she lives. Gone for the most part are the blustery winter storms and frigid temps. Appearing are the fragrant floral blossoms and the season of smells on the outdoor grill.
But Bev experiences one of the more common nonmotor symptoms of PD, which is loss of smell. She has beautiful lilacs in her yard (a fragrant smell I miss in Arizona), but she cannot smell them, even up close.
My sister started experiencing loss of smell and to some extent loss of taste about seven to 10 years before her PD diagnosis. The medical term for a decreased sense of smell is hyposmia.
Parkinson’s News Today‘s Alice Melão reported on a 2018 study in the Journal of Neurology suggesting that an impaired sense of smell or taste can increase a person’s risk of developing PD by about 2.5 times.
The reason for loss of smell in PD is thought to be related to changes in the brain’s olfactory bulb, which is responsible for sensing smell. Research has shown that the olfactory bulb is smaller in people with PD. Over 90% of people with PD experience a loss of smell.
My sister did receive chemotherapy in the past to treat her colon cancer, which also may have contributed to a decreased sense of smell. She is now an eight-year cancer survivor.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research notes that, “Most people do not connect losing their sense of smell to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. After developing motor symptoms and talking to a doctor, however, they may recall that years or even decades earlier their ability to smell decreased.”
Recent research has included discovering smell tests that can be used to detect PD at early stages. The usual method of testing smell is the “scratch-and-sniff” method, where common scents are placed on paper or in a container. A study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface last year used a newer approach for testing the sense of smell through a capsule-based test.
There are of course other reasons that people develop a loss of smell, including allergies, medications, a cold, and advancing age.
Not everyone with a loss of smell develops PD, but it is a symptom to discuss with a healthcare provider if it is an ongoing issue.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.