Spasmodic Dysphonia


Spasmodic dysphonia is a certain type of medical condition that affects the sound and quality of the voice. Because of this condition, one or more of the vocal cord muscles contract in an abnormal fashion. The voice of those individuals affected may sound strained or shaky, or even as if they are choking while trying to speak. Because of this, the conversations of those affected may appear forced. This is due to the frequent need to make speaking a concentrated effort for the best voice quality. The occurrence of irregular contracting vocal cord muscles may be noted by individuals as being more frequent during periods when stress levels are elevated.

Associated Symptoms of Spasmodic Dysphonia

More frequently than not, the symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia begin to appear during the years of adulthood. Outcome or prognosis is difficult to determine as this condition is known to progress at a various rate, which is based on individual circumstances. However, early intervention is best as it is noted that the muscle spasms and issues with voice quality worsen over time if left untreated.

There are certain times when the quality of one’s voice appears to be in a better state. While singing, laughing, and even consuming a small amount of alcohol, it is not uncommon for those affected to notice an improvement in the quality of their voice.

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Causes of Spasmodic Dysphonia

Currently, there are no specified causes for the development of this medical condition. There have been some suggestions made that certain areas of the brain may be responsible for the irregular contraction of the vocal cord muscles; however, no targeted therapy has yet been developed to prove or disprove these theories.

Treatment Options for Spasmodic Dysphonia

Botox, a common injection used in cosmetic procedures to relax facial movement, is also a form of treatment for this medical condition. This treatment may be utilized to help improve the voice by relaxing the muscles of the vocal cords. During this procedure, a needle is passed quickly into the vocal cords via an injection through the skin of the neck. Botox injections are given directly into the affected muscles of the vocal cord where the irregular contractions take place. Results are similar in manner to injections performed cosmetically as the vocal cord muscles are then relaxed and their movement is reduced. This procedure may need to be repeated a few times each year as the improvements in voice quality typically only last for a period of four to six months.

If Botox injections are unsuccessful or undesired by patient or provider, another treatment option is available that may potentially be a more permanent solution. This procedure is referred to as denervation-reinnervation. During this surgical procedure, the affected nerves servicing the vocal cords are cut (denervation), and different, healthy nerves are then reattached to the vocal cord muscles (reinnervation) to stimulate regular contractions.