Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder. It occurs when the muscles of the throat freeze or go into spasms. Words are strangled and strained or they don’t get out at all. Sounds are also distorted.
Main types of SD include:
- Adductor spasmodic dysphonia—spasms cause muscles to stiffen and close
- Abductor spasmodic dysphonia—spasms cause muscles to spastically open
- Mixed spasmodic dysphonia
Spasmodic dysphonia affects the throat muscles.
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The exact causes of SD are unknown. It is labeled as a disorder of the central nervous system. The areas of the brain that control these muscle movements are deep within the brain.
Factors increase your chance of developing SD include:
Degenerative brain diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Another movement disorder such as tardive dyskinesia
- Family history of SD—In some families, a gene on chromosome 9 may be connected to SD.
Brain infection such as encephalitis
- Exposure to toxins or certain medications such as phenothiazines
- Gender: female
- Age: between 30-50
Symptoms of SD include:
- Squeaky, strained speech
- No speech at all
- Speech with the wrong pitch and tone
- Breaks in speech
- Breathy voice
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your doctor may refer you to a team of specialists, including:
- Neurologist—to evaluate your brain function
- Speech pathologist—to evaluate your speech and how it’s produced
- Otolaryngologist—to evaluate your vocal cords
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
- Medication—to increase dopamine, a chemical in the brain that influences muscle movement
- Speech therapy techniques—to relax muscles
- Brain stimulation—to prevent muscles from freezing and going into spasm
- Counseling—to help deal with the condition
- Surgery in severe cases—to cut or remove a nerve that is connected to the vocal cords
Since the causes are unknown, it is difficult to prevent SD.
Daniilidou, P, Carding P, Wilson, J, Drinnan, M, Deary, V. Cognitive behavioral therapy for functional dysphonia.
Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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