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Text messages shed light on the symptoms of stroke

Posting in Technology

The inability to write a text message may be a vital "tool" in diagnosing a type of stroke, according to new research.

A case study released by Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI, documents the case of a 40 year-old on business who showed signs of "dystextia," the inability to write a coherent text message -- auto-correct aside -- but had no problems speaking normally. The patient, who was able to speak and read normally, only produced garbled messages when asked to write a simple text message, but also saw nothing wrong with such a text.

Despite showing only slight facial asymmetry and having no other apparent symptoms, doctors at the hospital diagnosed the man as having suffered an acute ischemic stroke, in which clots cut off blood supply to particular areas of the brain. Left untreated, it can be fatal or result in physical impairments.

The night before going to the hospital, the 40 year-old sent his wife the message, "Oh baby your. I am out of it, just woke up, can't make sense, I can't even type, call if ur awake, love you." When asked to type "the doctor needs a new blackberry" at the hospital, the resultant message was "Tjhe Doctor nddds a new bb," but he did not recognize any errors.

Omran Kaskar, M.D., a neurologist at Henry Ford Hospital and lead author of the research said that text messaging can be a vital way to diagnose strokes based on these kinds of language limitations. Kaskar commented:

"Text messaging is a common form of communication with more than 75 billion texts sent each month. 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.

Because text messages are always time-stamped when they're sent they may also help establish when the stroke symptoms were at least present or even when they began."

The report will be presented during the annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Diego on March 19.

Image credit: Alex E. Proimos

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— By on March 14, 2013, 3:47 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure