Top 10 Fascinating Diseases That You Can Smell

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As a physician, you are taught to use all of your senses when entering the room to help determine the patient’s diagnosis. Certainly, doctors visually examine patients and uses things like stethoscopes to listen to heartbeats. While many wouldn’t readily think of smell as being one of the more important senses that physicians use, it can actually be extremely useful in diagnosing certain diseases and disorders. cool stuff, cool stuff, cool stuff

Some of the diseases on this list emit extremely interesting scents that you would never expect. While some smells are more pleasant than others, the possibility of using a scent as a diagnostic criteria for disease is an extremely promising one. Other scents on this list require special sniffers to be picked up upon.

10. Diabetic Ketoacidosis

When diabetes is not managed correctly, the body cannot make enough insulin to store the glucose that we eat in our tissues. The inability of cells to utilize the glucose leads to a lack of the ability to create energy. When the body can no longer create energy from sugar, it switches to breaking down fat to make energy. The breakdown product of these fats is known as a ketone. cool stuff, cool stuff, cool stuff

You may have heard of acetone during your last trip to the nail salon. What you may not know is that our bodies can actually make acetone through the breakdown of fats and the creation of ketone bodies. When diabetics’ sugars get extremely low, they can enter into a state called diabetic ketoacidosis. This occurs when ketone bodies levels rise to an extremely unsafe level.

Surprisingly, diabetic ketoacidosis can be detected by a certain kind of smell on the patient’s breath.[1] The acetone being created actually emits a fruity smell that can be picked up by humans. Not only can it be sensed by humans, but dogs can also be trained to pick up on this scent in order to alert the patients to their high blood sugar.

9. Maple Syrup Urine Disease

Imagine having a bathroom filled with the sweet smell of maple syrup every time you use the toilet. Well, people with the disorder known as maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) experience just that. This disease is an autosomal recessive metabolic disorder that affects the way that patients can break down certain amino acids. Patients with this disease are not able to correctly break down amino acids with branches including valine, leucine, and isoleucine. This means that these amino acids must exit the body through the urine, causing a distinct odor.[2]

While MSUD may sound extremely pleasant, it is actually anything but. Infants who are affected with the disease seem healthy at birth but rapidly deteriorate, eventually suffering from brain damage and death if their condition is left untreated. Later onset can lead to a continuum of symptoms ranging from weight loss and diarrhea to uninhibited behavior and hallucinations. The sweet-smelling urine can actually warn of an attack of these symptoms.

It is extremely important for patients to control their intake of branched amino acids, as they are found in many, many foods. There is currently no cure for the disease, but steps can be taken to control the severity of symptoms.

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