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Spasmodic dysphonia, also called laryngeal dystonia, is a voice disorder. It is characterized by involuntary spasms or movements in the muscles of the larynx, which causes the voice to break, and have a tight, strained, or strangled sound.
Difficulties that result from spasmodic dysphonia range from occasional problems with saying a word or two to complete inability to communicate.
Spasmodic dysphonia is a chronic condition which most often affects women, particularly between the ages of 30 and 50.
There are three types of spasmodic dysphonia:
The exact cause of spasmodic dysphonia is not known. Most cases are believed to be caused by a nervous system disorder, and may occur with other movement disorders. Researchers believe it may be caused by abnormal functioning in the basal ganglia of the brain, which helps coordinate movements of muscles throughout the body. Spasmodic dysphonia may be a genetic disorder, or may begin following an upper respiratory infection, injury to the larynx, a long period of voice use, or stress.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, examination of the vocal folds by fiberoptic nasolaryngoscopy may be performed. This procedure involves using a lighted tube, passed though the nose into the larynx to evaluate movement of the vocal folds during speech.
Specific treatment for spasmodic dysphonia will be determined by your physician based on:
The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms of the disorder. Surgery to cut one of the nerves of the vocal fold has been used, as well as counseling. Some success has been achieved with the injection of the botulinum toxin directly into the affected muscles of the larynx. Speech therapy is also an important part of treatment of spasmodic dysphonia.