Sudden onset of 'dystextia,' other garbled communications, can be signs of stroke
Stroke experts are finding that the ever-expanding digital record left by texts and e-mails can offer warning signs of possible strokes and other brain disorders, says a UT Southwestern Medical Center vascular neurologist.
Dr. Mark J. Alberts says unclear text messages – a phenomenon better known as “dystextia” – along with jumbled e-mails and other unusual patterns in communicating can be signs of dysphasia, which is an inability to communicate due to brain injury and is a common indicator of a stroke.
“What we’re looking for – whether it’s speaking, emailing, or texting – are real errors in terms of using the wrong words in the wrong way at the wrong time,” Dr. Alberts says. “Saying ‘I took my car out for a walk’ instead of ‘I took my dog out for a walk’ could be indicative of a language problem, and that can tell us that something is going on in the brain.”
Dystextia is turn-of-phrase terminology popularized by Harvard University researchers, who recently wrote in the journal Archives of Neurology about a case in which the garbled text messages of a 25-year-old pregnant woman were the first apparent signs that she had suffered an acute ischemic stroke. Her texts – which included such nonsensical phrases as “every where thinging days nighing” and “Some is where!” – alerted her husband to the potential problem.
Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 133,000 people annually, according to the National Stroke Association.
“A stroke is a medical emergency, and the best thing people can do is seek help right away,” Dr. Alberts says. “The sooner somebody having a stroke seeks help, the better chance we have at intervening and either reversing the effects of the stroke or preventing it from getting worse.”
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