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Impaired Smell May Be Risk Factor for Parkinson's Disease

Olfaction screening may help identify those at high risk

MONDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Impaired olfaction could be a useful screening tool for Parkinson's disease in men, as it can predate the disease by at least four years, according to a report published in the February issue of the Annals of Neurology.

G. Webster Ross, M.D., of the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu, and colleagues conducted a study of 2,267 men aged 71 to 95 years and free of Parkinson's disease at baseline. The men's olfaction was assessed and they were followed up for eight years.

In the follow-up period, 35 men were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease with the average age at diagnosis of 82.9 years and an average time to diagnosis of four years. When the men were stratified according to olfactory dysfunction, the incidence of Parkinson's disease was 54.5/10,000 person-years for those in the lowest quartile for odor identification with an odds ratio of 5.2 after adjustment for potential confounders compared with the top two quartiles, the investigators found. This association was not found beyond the first four years of follow-up.

"Olfactory testing together with screening for other potential early indicators of Parkinson's disease such as constipation or sleep disturbances could provide a simple and relatively economic means of identifying individuals at high risk for development of Parkinson's disease," the authors write.

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