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Studies suggest odor test, eye exam might detect early Alzheimer's

WASHINGTON — A simple test of a person's ability to detect odors and noninvasive eye exams might someday help doctors learn whether their patients are at risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to research to be presented today.

With Alzheimer's disease spreading fast among the world's aging population, researchers are increasingly focused on the search for new ways to detect and treat the brain-killing disease in its earliest stages.

In two separate studies on the connection between dementia and sense of smell, teams of researchers found that a decreased ability to detect odors in older people, as determined by a common scratch-and-sniff test, could point to brain cell loss and the onset of dementia.

In two other studies, researchers showed that noninvasive eye exams also might offer a way to identify Alzheimer's in its early stages.

The findings — which are to be presented today at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark — raise hopes that doctors could develop simple, inexpensive diagnostic tools that would hunt down reliable biomarkers of a disease that affects more than 5 million people in the United States.

Alzheimer's is a progressive and incurable disease that begins in areas of the brain associated with memory. It is the leading cause of dementia in older people, usually striking after age 65. It robs people of their cognitive abilities, speech and, ultimately, their identities.

Studies suggest odor test, eye exam might detect early Alzheimer's 07/12/14 [Last modified: Sunday, July 13, 2014 5:44pm]
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