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Spasmodic Dysphonia

What is Spasmodic Dysphonia?

Spasmodic dysphonia is a rare voice disorder that causes spasms in the muscles of the voice box or larynx. The voice breaks and has a tight, strained, or strangled sound.

Spasmodic dysphonia is a life-long condition. It only occurs in about 1 in 100,000 people and most often affects women, particularly between the ages of 30 and 50.

Symptoms of Spasmodic Dysphonia

Symptoms vary based on whether the spasms make the vocal cords close or open. Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Quiet speech
  • Breathy speech

There are three types of spasmodic dysphonia with different symptoms:

  • Adductor spasmodic dysphonia: This is the most common type. It causes sudden spasms that make the vocal cords stiffen and close. Speech is strained and takes a lot of effort. Spasms don't happen when whispering, laughing, singing, speaking at a high pitch, or speaking while breathing in. Stress can make spasms worse.
  • Abductor spasmodic dysphonia: This type causes sudden spasms that cause the vocal cords to open. Speech takes a lot of effort, and air escapes during speech, making speech weak, quiet, and whispery. Spasms don't happen when laughing or singing.
  • Mixed spasmodic dysphonia: This is a mix of symptoms of both types of dysphonia.

UR Medicine's Treatments for Spasmodic Dysphonia


Diagnosing spasmodic dysphonia can be difficult because the larynx appears normal, and symptoms can be similar to other disorders. A healthcare team including a neurologist, an otolaryngologist (ENT) and a speech-language pathologist may collaborate on your diagnosis.

Along with a complete health history and physical exam, checking the vocal folds using a laryngoscopy may be done. This a lighted tube passed through the nose into the voice box to check the movement of the vocal folds during speech.


The goal of treatment is to reduce your symptoms, as there is no cure for spasmodic dysphonia. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery
  • Injections of botulinum toxins (BOTOX)
  • Antianxiety medications
  • Speech or voice therapy
  • Myofascial release (releasing the muscles of the throat)

What Sets Us Apart?

Our ENT physicians are trained in non-surgical and surgical treatment of diseases of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck. They perform hundreds of procedures and surgeries every year, so your care is always in the hands of well-practiced experts.

As part of UR Medicine, our physicians are exposed to more complex conditions and unusual complications than most physicians in the upstate New York region. Many of our physicians are also involved in research to find new treatments for ENT-related conditions.

All our doctors are board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology.

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