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Nonsensical texts may be sign of medical emergency

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 26th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

You receive a txt message from a family member or loved one and it reads like this. "every where thinging days nighing" "Some is where!" Before you brush it off as just the auto-correct going berserk, it may be a sign that the other person is suffering a stroke, or some other medical emergency.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Such is the case of a husband who started getting nonsensical texts from his 25-year-old wife, who was pregnant with their first child. The Boston-area man knew that his wife's autocorrect was turned off on his 11-week-pregnant wife's phone.

Taking her straight to the emergency medical room, doctors noted several signs of a stroke, including disorientation, inability to use her right arm and leg properly coupled with some difficulty speaking.

A magnetic resonance imaging scan, or MRI revealed that part of the woman's brain wasn't getting enough blood, clinching the diagnosis. Her symptoms went away quickly and she was then sent home from the hospital on low-dose blood thinners.

Doctors from Boston's Harvard Medical School suggest that with "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."

The doctors describe the phenomenon as "dystextia," which is the word used by other doctors in an earlier case involving a migraine.

"In her case, the first evidence of language difficulties came from her unintelligible texts," Dr. Joshua Klein, said in an email.

Strokes are rare in women aged 15 to 34, with about 11,000 per year, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Sean Savitz, who directs the stroke program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, said he has seen a few patients who sent emails suggesting they were having difficulty with language, a condition known as aphasia.

In this instance, the patient's obstetrician's office later remembered that she had trouble filling out a form. And they might have caught the language difficulty earlier had the woman not had a weak voice, thanks to a recent upper respiratory infection.

"So, this case report per se does not indicate to me if dystextia is going to be more common to pick up strokes," Savitz told Reuters Health by email, "But I do think it will be a valuable addition to the collection of information that neurologists should obtain when taking a history."

"The main stroke warning signs with respect to texting would be unintelligible language output, or problems reading or comprehending texts,' Klein says. "Many Smartphones have an 'autocorrect' function which can introduce erroneous word substitutions, giving the impression of a language disorder."

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