When a man noticed that his 25-year-old, 11-weeks pregnant wife was sending him unintelligible text messages like ”every where thinging days nighing,” he knew something was wrong. (He also knew autocorrect, responsible for lots of texting confusion, was turned off on her phone). He took her to the emergency room and doctors noticed several signs of a stroke, including disorientation, inability to use her right arm and leg, and more. All due to dystextia, a recently-coined term doctors are using to describe aphasia (language difficulty) that makes itself known through digital means.
The woman in question ended up getting an MRI which revealed that part of her brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen (kind of like a mini stroke, similar to what Frankie Muniz recently experienced). Doctors in Archives of Neurology used her case to explain the new phenomenon of dystextia:
In her case, the first evidence of language difficulties came from her unintelligible texts.
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.
Interesting, right? It never occurred to me that text messaging could help diagnose a stroke, although it makes total sense that it would. It’s so cool that texting, something most of us engage in every day, can also provide clues about our health and wellness. Doctors say dystextia could become part of a neurologists’ plan for diagnosing a stroke or other brain issue, but they also caution to be careful and not confuse symptoms of aphasia with plain old autocorrect. Dr. Joshua Klein said:
The main stroke warning signs with respect to texting would be unintelligible language output, or problems reading or comprehending texts. Many smartphones have an ‘autocorrect’ function which can introduce erroneous word substitutions, giving the impression of a language disorder.