When a 25-year-old pregnant woman started sending indecipherable text messages to her husband, he knew something was wrong.
The woman, whose name was not released, was on her way home from her obstetrician's office and wanted to let her husband know about their baby's due date. The conversation-by-text quickly took an odd turn. Their texts were reproduced in a paper about the case published Dec. 24 in the journal Archives of Neurology:
Husband: So what's the deal?
Wife: every where thinging days nighing
Wife: Some is where!
Husband: What the hell does that mean?
Husband: You're not making any sense.
As they discussed the actual due date, her answers continued to be strange.
Husband: Oh ok, I'm worried about your confusing answers
Wife: But I think
Husband: Think what?
Wife: What I think with be fine
A visit to the emergency room noted that the woman was experiencing dysphasia, the mixing up of words and sounds that is often one of the first signs of a stroke. An MRI and other tests revealed that she had suffered an acute ischemic stroke, a blockage of the blood flow in the brain.
In their paper about the case, Drs. Arvind Ravi, Vikram R. Rao and Joshua P. Klein — all from Harvard Medical School in Boston — dubbed the woman's garbled texts "dystextia," a play on the word dysphasia. Dysphasia, also known as aphasia, is one of the most common symptoms of a stroke and experienced by 21 percent to 38 percent of patients suffering from acute strokes.
It turns out this wasn't the first symptom the woman had experienced. Earlier in the day, she had noticed a several-minute period of what the paper dubs "acute weakness in her right arm and leg," but she did not seek medical attention at the time.
According to CBS News, the woman's condition improved after she was given aspirin and other medications. Her symptoms disappeared. Neither she nor her unborn child appear to have suffered any long-term effects.
In addition to the stroke symptoms, the woman had recently experienced an unidentified respiratory illness. This caused her voice to become hypophonic — basically, she had lost her voice — which could have made it harder for a doctor to diagnose her dysphasia by her speech alone.
In their paper, the doctors write that electronic communications such as texting could be a new way to quickly diagnose medical problems such as strokes. More importantly, the messages also provide a concrete, accessible record of a person's transition from normal writing into "dystextia." "As the accessibility of electronic communication continues to advance, 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 note that this isn't the first time that dysphasia has been noted to affect texting. They note that it has been seen in other strokes and in people experiencing complex migraines. But they note that in this particular case, the "dystextia" may have speeded up diagnosis. This may be especially relevant in future cases in which a patient's voice has been temporarily compromised by another illness.
Related post on MNN: More young and middle-age people having strokes