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Spasmodic Dysphonia

There are certain medical conditions that may affect the way that the voice sounds. One of these, spasmodic dysphonia, is a result of abnormal contractions in one or more of the muscles of the vocal cords. This can cause voice that sounds , shaky, or strained. Affected individuals may even sound a little like they are being strangled or that they are choking while speaking. Those with spasmodic dysphonia often make a concentrated effort in order to speak. This can make conversations appear forced.

The contractions of the vocal cord muscles occur irregularly, though they may happen more frequently during times of stress.


This medical condition most frequently begins to show itself with symptoms at some point during adulthood. Progression of the disorder occurs at varying rates for each individual, but the muscle spasms and the effects on the voice typically get worse as time goes by without treatment.

It is common for someone with this disorder to notice an improvement in the sound of voice while singing or laughing. Consuming a small amount of alcohol has even been shown to improve voice quality


Unfortunately, no specific cause of spasmodic dysphonia has been identified. There are some suggestions that certain parts of the brain may be responsible for these irregular contractions of the vocal cords, but no targeted therapy has been developed yet.


In the same manner that Botox injections are used to relax facial muscles to reduce movement, this medication can be used to relax the muscles of the vocal cords to help improve the voice. Injections are placed directly into the muscles of vocal cords where the contractions of the muscle take place. This is accomplished by quickly passing a needle through the skin of the neck into the vocal cords. Improvements in voice last for 4-6 months and need to be repeated a few times per year.

A potentially more permanent option is available by the way of surgical intervention. This procedure is called deinnervation-reinnervation. It involves cutting of the affected nerves, or deinnervation, and reattaching different nerves to the vocal cord muscles.