Dystextia: A New Warning Sign

Jan 14, 2013

Here’s another sign that personal technology has penetrated nearly every part of our lives – Boston Globe Health Reporter and blogger Deborah Kotz recently wrote about a newly recognized medical phenomenon called “dystextia”

Basically, what happened was a twenty-five year old pregnant woman went  in for her routine prenatal visit – her husband texted her and said “okay, when’s the due date”, and the woman just gave back a gibberish message.

Here’s an example of one of their exchanges: the expectant husband texted – “so what’s the deal?” His wife responded: “every where thinging days nighing. some is where”.

Whereas many of us might see this back and forth as a case of bad auto-correction, the husband of the ersatz texter suspected something much more serious.

I think he took her to the hospital, and sure enough she was having a stroke. The neurologist there wanted people to know that if you do start to see very strange nonsensical messages it could be as sign that there’s a real medical emergency.

Incredibly, the woman’s doctor failed to pick up on the more traditional verbal signs of stroke because she was also suffering from larangitis – and her voice was hoarse. 

It’s a sign of how pervasive cell-phones and instant messaging has become – that changes to patterns in our texted communications can become signals for something more.  The phenomenon already has a name: “Dystextia”.

Doctors had already been seeing “dystextia” with other medical conditions. First of all, post-stroke: a lot of people post-stroke don’t have the full mobility in their hands so they may not be able to type correctly the words they are trying to get out. They also say that it could occur with somebody who’s having a bad migraine. If you are getting these erratic texts from someone, it would pay to call them on the phone and say: “Hey, is everything okay?”

That’s Boston Globe Health Reporter and blogger Deborah Kotz. Of course, some people commenting on her article brought up another condition that might result in nonsensical, error-prone text messages: intoxication.