Spasmodic Dysphonia

Spasmodic Dysphonia

Spasmodic dysphonia, also called laryngeal dystonia, is a voice disorder. It is characterized by involuntary spasms or movements in the muscles of the voice box, which causes the voice to break, and have a tight, strained, or strangled sound. 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.


There are TWO common types of spasmodic dysphonia:

  • Adductor spasmodic dysphonia
: Characterized by sudden involuntary spasms that cause the vocal cords to slam together and stiffen. Speech sounds are strained and full of effort. Spasms do not occur when whispering, laughing, singing, speaking at a high pitch, or speaking while breathing in.
  • Abductor spasmodic dysphonia
: Characterized by sudden involuntary spasms that cause the vocal cords to open. Speech sounds are weak, quiet, and whispery. Spasms do not occur when laughing or singing.  

A very small needle, through which the medicine (Botox) is injected, is it advanced through the neck into the voice box muscle.  The procedure takes only a few minutes with very little pain associated. To obtain a long-term benefit, the medicine has to be injected approximately every two months.


Specific treatment for spasmodic dysphonia will be based on several things such as the severity of hoarseness, your tolerance for specific procedures, and your preference. The goal of treatment is to make the patient's voice sound much more normal again.

Botulinum toxin: Botulinum toxin A is injected into the affected muscles of the larynx. This is done within a few minutes in the office with very little discomfort for the patient. This will temporarily weaken the muscle and reduce hoarseness.  As the medication wears off symptoms will come back and patients will return for another botulinum toxin injection a few months later.


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