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Home > Services > Ear, Nose and Throat > ENT Conditions > Spasmodic Dysphonia

Spasmodic Dysphonia

Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder. It occurs when the muscles of the throat freeze or go into spasms. Words are strangled and strained or they don’t get out at all. Sounds are also distorted.

Main types of SD include:

  • Adductor spasmodic dysphonia — spasms cause muscles to stiffen and close
  • Abductor spasmodic dysphonia — spasms cause muscles to spastically open
  • Mixed spasmodic dysphonia



Spasmodic dysphonia affects the throat muscles.

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The exact causes of SD are unknown. It is labeled as a disorder of the central nervous system. The areas of the brain that control these muscle movements are deep within the brain.

Risk of SD

Factors increase your chance of developing SD include:

  • Degenerative brain diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Another movement disorder such as tardive dyskinesia
  • Family history of SD
  • Brain infection such as encephalitis
  • Exposure to toxins or certain medications such as phenothiazines
  • Gender: female
  • Age: between 30 - 50

Spasmodic Dysphonia Symptoms

Symptoms of SD include:

  • Squeaky, strained speech
  • No speech at all
  • Speech with the wrong pitch and tone
  • Breaks in speech
  • Breathy voice

Spasmodic Dysphonia Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan

Your doctor may refer you to a team of specialists, including:

  • Neurologist — to evaluate your brain function
  • Speech pathologist — to evaluate your speech and how it’s produced
  • Otolaryngologist — to evaluate your vocal cords

SD Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

  • Medication — to increase dopamine, a chemical in the brain that influences muscle movement
  • Speech therapy techniques — to relax muscles
  • Brain stimulation — to prevent muscles from freezing and going into spasm
  • Counseling — to help deal with the condition
  • Surgery in severe cases — to cut or remove a nerve that is connected to the vocal cords


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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