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Spasmodic Dysphonia

What is spasmodic dysphonia?

Spasmodic dysphonia is characterized by involuntary spasms of the muscles that control the voice. The spasms cause the voice to become strained, hoarse, or squeaky. Some people can barely talk. Spasmodic dysphonia is the most common form of laryngeal dystonia.

Who gets spasmodic dysphonia?

People of all ages and all races all over the world get spasmodic dysphonia. It most commonly begins in middle age, between 40-65 years old. In rare cases, it may begin in children or older adults. People of both sexes get spasmodic dysphonia, but it is more common in women.

What causes spasmodic dysphonia?

In most cases, the cause of spasmodic dysphonia is unknown.

How is spasmodic dysphonia diagnosed?

The diagnosis of spasmodic dysphonia depends on recognition of its characteristic features by an expert, such as a trained otolaryngologist, neurologist, or speech pathologist. There are no medical tests for proving the diagnosis, but several tests may be conducted to rule out other possible problems. These tests may include use of a special medical telescope to view the inside of the throat.

Are there treatments for spasmodic dysphonia?

The most useful treatments for spasmodic dysphonia involve quieting the overactive muscles by injecting them with a muscle relaxer. The most commonly used treatments include the botulinum toxins, but some patients also take pill medications. Some patients elect to have surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions about Spasmodic Dysphonia

Why did I get spasmodic dysphonia?

The reasons why some people get spasmodic dysphonia are unknown. In some cases, it may be inherited through a change in the genes. In others, it may be caused by something that happened to the brain or the throat, like exposure to some infection, chemical, or injury. Experts believe that most cases come from a combination of inheritance and some exposure.

Spasmodic dysphonia usually reaches its worst level of severity over a period of weeks or months; then it becomes stable. In rare cases, it may worsen over years or spread to another region of the body.

In a few fortunate people, spasmodic dysphonia may go away. When it does go away, there always is the risk that it may come back.

Most people with injuries to the throat or neck do not develop spasmodic dysphonia. People with spasmodic dysphonia are no more likely to have such injuries than those without spasmodic dysphonia. Though spasmodic dysphonia may develop after some trauma, it is not possible to know for sure if the trauma caused the problem.