Dystextia, A new neurologic symptom for the new year


Neurology is laden with complicated terminology and eponyms.  For example, the terms aphasia or dysphasia indicate difficulty with verbal communication, most often from acute stroke affecting the dominant hemisphere.  The term apraxia indicates a disorder of motor planning causing an inability to perform a certain specific motor tasks even though strength is otherwise normal.  Dystextia is a term that has recently been coined to indicate the inability to create a coherent text message.

In a recent publication, Harvard physicians Ravi Rao and Klein describe an evolving stroke in a young woman manifest by dystextia:  A healthy 25-year old right-handed pregnant woman at 11 weeks’ gestational age, was brought to the emergency department after sending her husband a series of confusing text messages regarding their baby’s due date:

H: So what’s the deal?
P: every where thinging days nighing
P: Some is where!
H: What the hell does that mean?
H: You’re not making any sense.
H: July 24, right?
P: J 30
H: July 30?
P: Yes
H: Oh ok. I’m worried about your confusing answers
P: But i think
H: Think what?
P: What i think with be fine

Her brain magnetic resonance imaging showed an acute stroke in the left insular cortex:
Untitled-1 copy

Similar but transient problems texting caused by both aphasia and apraxia were previously reported as dystextia caused by complicated migraine by New Zealanders Whitfield and Jayathissa in their 2011 paper.

However, it was a 2006 paper published in the Irish medical journal by Catwood, King and Sreenam that first used the term dystextia, resulting from simple loss of left hand dexterity in a 40-year-old man with a right hemispheric stroke, which then slowly recovered over time:

In sum, young adults are spending more time texting and tweeting than talking or performing other daily activities.  We now have a descriptive term for when they have a neurologic event or process that prevents them from doing this.  However, it’s important to recognize that dystextia is a symptom, not a diagnosis, and can be caused by a variety of neurologic problems including aphasia, apraxia or simple loss of dexterity.

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