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Some of my relatives have Alzheimer’s disease, and I am worried that I might get it too. I want a way to check for the early signs of dementia. Somebody told me that it might be possible to test myself at home using a smell test. Is that true?

–Anonymous, 52, Newport Beach


At-Home Screening Test

A new test is available for detecting one of the potential, early signs of AD that can be performed at home. This test, called Early Alert, checks a person’s sense of smell or odor recognition. The test consists of twelve cards, each containing a specific odor, which the user must scratch and sniff and identify. If the user cannot correctly identify four or more of the odors, the manufacturer recommends that the user seek medical advice from a physician. The test should not be conducted if you have congestion, sinusitis, or respiratory problems, because such conditions can alter one’s sense of smell. The manufacturer recommends testing for those over 50 years of age.
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Although this particular test has not been tested for efficacy, it was developed based on other studies that suggested that impaired odor recognition may be a useful tool for detecting early AD and mild cognitive impairment. More data are needed to determine whether a decline in a person’s sense of smell or odor recognition is related to Alzheimer’s disease. Because there are other causes of impaired odor recognition, and the relationship between declining odor recognition and Alzheimer’s disease is not clear, this test may be misinterpreted by the layperson. Therefore it should be used with realistic expectations. This test by itself cannot tell you whether you have or do not have dementia or mild cognitive impairment. However, it may be a useful addition to the available screening tools.

If you have concerns about the results of the test, or have concerns that you or someone you care for may have signs of dementia, you should consult a medical professional. The Alzheimer’s Association can recommend a list of physicians in your area who specialize in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

More information about the Early Alert Alzheimer’s Home Screening Test can be found at this website:

Dr. Mindy Kim-Miller is a trained medical physician who provides useful, but general answers to questions provided by online visitors. While Dr. Mindy can not provide specific medical advice or services, we hope you find her responses useful in your personal education. All information is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect you have an illness or disease, or a health related condition of any kind, seek professional medical care with an appropriate health care professional immediately. Do not postpone or delay seeking treatment or disregard professional advice based upon the general answers provided by Dr. Mindy. Dr. Mindy’s advice is not intended to substitute for a visit to your personal physician or other qualified health provider. Any specific medical concerns or questions you may have should be directed to your personal physician or other qualified health provider.


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