Recognizing a stroke in technological era
With the advent of the technology that brought us cell phones and texting, social media and email, the number of different ways we can communicate with each other has been expanded dramatically. We are no longer limited to just using a phone if we aren’t in close enough proximity to speak to each other. We can Skype or Facetime, text or instant message, email or send a voice message. This ability brings us closer when we are far away, but can also bring with it the possibility of identifying that a person is having a stroke without being able to see him or her.
A paper recently published in the journal JAMA Neurology labeled the phenomenon as “dystextia”, or an alteration in texting ability that is the result of of an acute ischemic stroke. The paper was based on a case study of a pregnant woman who was texting her husband, when her texts became uncharacteristically confusing:
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.
Her husband took her to the hospital where it was discovered that she was having a stroke, and she was promptly treated.
Though the phenomena may not have many examples of it yet, Ravi, Rao, and Klein (1) write in their paper “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.”
As a member of the “technology” generation, texting is one of the main forms of communication I have with my social circles. Educating users of this technology about issues such as dystextia can help increase the chances of quick medical intervention for people who are having a stroke. Every second counts in preventing the lasting damage that can result from a stroke, for example, aphasia, visual neglect, motor impairments, reading and writing difficulties, etc.
So keep an eye on your friends via text, and consider that what you might have dismissed as an autocorrect fail might be an indicator of something more dangerous!
– Adele Courchesne