Spasmodic Dysphonia

Have you been lately experiencing tightness in voice and suffering from difficulties while speaking? You could be having a condition called Spasmosidc dysphonia (SD). Read on to find out all about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this voice disorder.

What is Spasmodic Dysphonia?

It is a chronic voice disorder characterized by spasms in the larynx muscles. Patients typically suffer from a tight or jerky voice which is quite difficult to understand. They have difficulties in speaking or communicating with others.

The condition is also known as “Laryngeal dystonia”.

Types of Spasmodic Dysphonia

There are three types of this disorder:

Adductor SD

This is characterized by the vocal cords getting clubbed together due to sudden spasms.

Abductor SD

It is characterized by the inability of the vocal cords to vibrate when they are open.

Mixed SD

This form of the disorder has the characteristics of both the adductor and abductor type.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Causes

The exact cause of this disease is yet to be discovered. However, it is believed to arise from defects associated to the nervous system. Thus, SD is considered to be a neurological disorder by many practitioners. On the other hand, there are some researchers and doctors who believe that the disease is psychogenic in nature. It means that the condition is not physically existent and only imagined by the suffering person. The symptoms that they experience are considered to be imaginary. Research has also shown that this voice disorder might be encouraged by a lonely lifestyle or high anxiety.

Picture of Spasmosidc Dysphonia

Picture 1 – Spasmosidc Dysphonia


Some of the evidences behind a neurologic connection of this disorder are:

Identical mechanism

SD may occur in combination with other neurologic disorders like blepharospasm. Identical mechanism is thus believed to be responsible for the occurrence of multiple neurologic disorders.

Genetic factors

The disease has also been found to be genetic. The Chromosome 9 has been found to be responsible for the disease.

Thickened vocal nerves

When the nerves of the vocal cords of the patients suffering from this voice disorder were examined, majority of them were revealed to be abnormally thicker than usual.

Dystonic base

The disorder is also associated with reduced MRI signals providing a dystonic base to the disease.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Risk Factors

Although the exact cause of this voice disorder is not known yet, a number of risk factors have been confirmed to be associated with it. These include:

  • Neurological Disorders
  • Infection in the brain
  • Infection with certain toxins
  • Sex, as the occurrence of SD is more in females
  • Age, as the disorder is more common in aged people

Spasmodic Dysphonia Symptoms

This voice disorder has a number of characteristic symptoms that can be used to recognize it easily. Some of these common symptoms include:

1)   Tightness in voice

2)   Jerks or breaks in the voice

3)   Slurred Speech

4)   Difficulty in speaking

Spasmodic Dysphonia Diagnosis

There is limited awareness and information about the symptoms of SD. Naturally, it is not easily diagnosed in patients. It is mostly confused with common voice disorders by doctors. Some of the common diagnostic exams used for detecting this disorder are:

Blood and urine tests

These are performed to check the presence of toxins in the body.

DNA testing

It is performed to check the associated genes.

Imaging tests

MRI scan and CT scan are used to check the condition of the organs present inside the brain.


The movement of vocal cords during speaking is checked with the help of a technique called Laryngoscopy. In this technique, the inner surface of the nose and throat are examined by passing a small piece of tube inside.


It is used to analyze the vibrations in the vocal cords.

The diagnosis of this disorder requires consultation from both neurologist and speech pathologist. The role of a speech pathologist is to check the speaking availability, flow and pronunciation of a suspected patient.

Spasmodic Dysphonia Treatment

A number of techniques are available for treating SD. These include:

Image of Spasmosidc Dysphonia

Picture 2 – Spasmosidc Dysphonia

Voice Therapy

On its own, this therapy is not sufficient to control the disorder. However, it can hasten the rate of recovery when combined with other techniques. Voice therapy is provided under the guidance of a speech pathologist and involves different techniques to improve pronunciation and speaking abilities.


The surgery of the nerves attached to the vocal cords has been found to be beneficial in few cases. A surgery called Selective Laryngeal Adductor Denervation-Rennervation is used exclusively for treating this disorder. This surgery has shown as high success rate as 80 % and is commonly used by the doctors.

Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum toxin or botox is also widely used for treating this disorder. It causes almost no side effects and is thus the safest method for treating SD.


Spasmodic Dysphonia is still under medical research with many scientists and medical professionals trying to understand the causes of this disorder. The symptoms of this disorder gradually worsen over a period of time. If you are suffering from this disorder, seek early medical assistance to achieve a faster recovery.



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