The inability to write a coherent text message may become an important tool in diagnosing a type of crippling stroke that does not affect the patient’s speaking ability, say medicos at Henry Ford Hospital.
The researchers cite a case where a 40-year-old man showed signs of “dystextia,” a recently coined term for incoherent text messaging that can sometimes be confused with autocorrect garble. Tellingly, however, the man saw nothing wrong with the garbled message.
The case notes indicate the patient had no problem with a routine bedside test of his language abilities – including fluency of speech, reading, writing, and comprehension. The doctors found no visible neurological problems except a slight weakness on the right side of his face. The dystextia came to light when he was handed a smartphone and asked to type, “the doctor needs a new blackberry.” Instead, he texted, “Tjhe Doctor nddds a new bb.” When asked if it was correct he did not recognize any typing errors.
The first warning signs appeared when he sent a message to his wife the night before he went to the hospital. She described it as “disjointed, non-fluent, and incomprehensible.”
The doctors determined the man had suffered an acute ischemic stroke, in which a clot or other blockage cuts off blood supply to part of the brain. Such strokes usually result in some form of physical impairment and can be fatal.
Omran Kaskar, a neurologist at Henry Ford Hospital and lead author of the research, said it illustrates how dystextia can be the only symptom of stroke-related aphasia – a partial or sometimes total inability to form or understand language. Kaskar is presenting details of the case next week at the annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Diego.
“Text messaging is a common form of communication with more than 75 billion texts sent each month,” Kaskar said. “Besides the time-honored tests we use to determine aphasia in diagnosing stroke, checking for dystextia may well become a vital tool in making such a determination.”
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