Posted on: October 21, 2023
You may not recognize her by name, but you’ve probably heard her story. Joy Milne has a remarkably unique talent: uncovering Parkinson’s disease through her nose. Her talent came to light when she sensed what she describes as an “overpowering sort of nasty yeast smell” in her husband of ten years. Soon noticing other changes in her husband, such as mood and personality changes, he ultimately sought medical attention, and was given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
Later, upon joining a Parkinson’s support group meeting, that same smell penetrated the room – even though evidently only Joy was able to notice it. As a matter of fact, she was also able to pick up on varying degrees of the scent – some whose scent was faint, while for other people, it was much stronger. With both her own and her husband’s medical backgrounds (she a nurse and he a physician), this revelation was definitely noteworthy and justified more action.
Her story led her to assist Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s disease investigator at the University of Edinburgh, with the aim of crafting a tool to provide earlier diagnosis – and in the long run, treatment – of Parkinson’s.
Although initially skeptical of the possibility of Parkinson’s being recognized through odor, he was open to further investigation after learning about the success that dogs were having in identifying the scent of cancer in patients. He then designed an approach to test her abilities, by giving her a random group of t-shirts – half which had been worn by someone clinically determined to have Parkinson’s, and the other half by patients without the disease – and, her accuracy rate was astounding. As a matter of fact, she missed the mark on just one of the shirts, worn by someone without Parkinson’s, but who in fact was later identified as having the condition as well.
Kunath explains, “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.” Dr. Thomas Hummel of the Technical University of Dresden’s Smell & Taste Clinic, concluded that even though the idea is intriguing, there are still a range of questions to first sort out.
Parkinson’s disease, in conjunction with a variety of other chronic health issues, can be more effectively managed through the help of a professional care manager. Contact Alivity Care Advocates to find senior care services you can trust, and for additional care advocacy services. Give us a call at (248) 375-9125 for more information.