“Dystextia”: Garbled Text Messages Could Be Sign Of Stroke

Impaired speech can be a sign of stroke, even when it's sent via a text message

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It’s one of the inadvertent joys of text messaging: autocorrected sentences that can occasionally lead to some unintentionally hilarious conversations (hence the popularity of sites like DamnYouAutoCorrect). But when your pregnant wife texts you a garbled message and you know her auto-correct is turned off, it can lead directly to the emergency room.

Take the case of one Boston-area man, who rushed his pregnant 25-year-old wife to the emergency room after receiving two confusing texts from her — “every where thinging days nighing” and “Some is where!” Doctors found her incoherent, disoriented and unable to coordinate her limbs properly, leading them to diagnose a stroke. An MRI confirmed the diagnosis; the woman was given blood thinners and fortunately made a full recovery.

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The case, which was published online in the Archives of Neurology, suggests that “the growing digital record will likely become an increasingly important means of identifying neurologic disease, particularly in patient populations that rely more heavily on written rather than spoken communication.” It’s a phenomenon that the three Harvard Medical School doctors behind the study have dubbed “dystextia.”

However as anyone who has sent an error-filled text message knows, making a typing mistake in a text message is easy, especially with the widespread use of text auto-correcting programs. “I have often joked with my colleagues when using the dictation of the smartphone, that it gives me an aphasia,” Dr. Sean Savitz, who directs the stroke program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, told Reuters Health. “Potential for lots of false positives!” Thus it’s important to note that dystextia alone is not cause for alarm — just in conjunction with other symptoms. “Everything has to be taken in context,” Dr. Joshua Klein, one of the report’s authors noted to NPR. “If someone is having a problem communicating for some unknown reason, whether it be talking, texting or even reading, they should get checked out by a doctor.”

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