Incoherent or slurred speech is a well-known sign that someone may have had a stroke. But in the era of cell-phone communication, another possible sign of stroke has emerged—“dystextia,” or composing garbled text messages.

This new info comes from a case report on one particular middle-aged male texter, so conceivably it could be a fluke (though a similar event reportedly involved a 25-year-old pregnant woman). Still, considering how serious stroke can be and how crucial it is to get immediate treatment, I urge you to take a moment to read about this bizarre occurrence.

The case of the confused texter: A 40-year-old man who was traveling on business sent his wife a series of odd, incoherent text messages shortly before midnight. It wasn’t that the messages were misspelled or abbreviated, as text messages frequently are, but rather that they just didn’t make sense.

His first message was “Oh baby your.” That was followed with “I’m happy.” A few minutes later, the man sent another message that let his wife know something was wrong: “I am out of it…can’t make sense, I can’t even type…”

The next day, the man went to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where he was examined by neurologist Omran Kaskar, DO. Dr. Kaskar found that the patient had slight weakness on one side of his face (a possible sign of stroke). But he spoke fluently and was able to read, write and comprehend spoken words, which many stroke patients cannot do.

The man’s wife traveled to Detroit to be with her husband. When she reported the weird texts, the doctor asked the patient to type, “The doctor needs a new Blackberry” on his cell phone. The man tried—but what came out was, “Tjhe Doctor nddds a new bb.” What was most alarming were not the typos (since those are common when using a phone’s tiny keyboard), but rather the fact that the patient was unable to recognize even a single error when he looked again at what he had keyed in.

After doing an MRI, Dr. Kaskar determined that the man had suffered an ischemic stroke, the type that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked.

Takeaway message: No one is suggesting that you should panic if you receive an incoherent text from a loved one, but it would be wise to check on that person to see whether there are any other signs of trouble. Call 911 if the person seems “off,” especially if he or she also exhibits any other possible stroke symptoms (numbness or weakness on one side of the face and/or body, problems with vision or speech, confusion, sudden severe headache). At the hospital, show the garbled text to the doctor. Such signs of dystextia can aid in making a diagnosis. Also, the text’s time stamp could help pinpoint when a stroke occurred—which is important because, when given to appropriate patients within three hours after a stroke (or within 4.5 hours in certain cases), the clot-busting drug tPA can work wonders in minimizing the damage.

For more news on stroke: Read “The Red Secret to Stroke Prevention”…“Women’s Fatal Mistake in Seeking Help for Stroke”…“Don’t Underestimate the Dangers of ‘Little’ Strokes”…and “How Art Safeguards Your Brain Against Stroke.”