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Bizarre texts could be sign of health problems

Speaking gibberish has long been known to be a telltale sign of a stroke, but how about nonsensical text messages? It turns out, those can also be a key indicator of a life-threatening loss of blood supply to the brain — a newly recognized phenomenon called dystextia.

After receiving a series of befuddling texts from his 25-year-old pregnant wife regarding her due date, a worried husband brought her to Brigham and Women’s Hospital where neurologists diagnosed a stroke. They reported the case in last week’s issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

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“The word dystextia has been used before in the medical literature,” said Dr. Joshua Klein, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s, but this is the first reported case of dystextia that Klein knows of to describe the aphasia that occurs in 20 to 40 percent of stroke patients. The nonsensical texts were the first warning signs that were noticed, though the woman had also had trouble filling out her medical forms in the doctor’s office earlier that day.

“Since so much communication is shifting from verbal to electronic communication, I think it’s important to take note if a loved one starts sending text messages that don’t make sense,” Klein said. “It could be a sign of a stroke or of other brain problem affecting language areas of the brain.”

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