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Spasmodic Dysphonia – An Introduction to This Voice Problem & A Support Forum to Help
I am creating this page about Spasmodic Dysphonia because after being diagnosed with this voice problem in 2007, I wanted to share my story and educate people about this relatively unknown condition. I also want other SD sufferers to know that they are not alone in dealing with this problem and that they can visit my forum for people with spasmodic dysphonia for opinions, treatments, exercises, etc.
Explain the situation and my story
Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder characterized by involuntary “jerks” of the vocal cords during speech that cause disruption and affect voice quality. SD can cause the sound to break up or have a tight, strained or muffled quality.
There are three types of spasmodic dysphonia – adductor, abductor and mixed.
adder – Sudden involuntary muscle movements or spasms cause the vocal folds (or vocal cords) to contract and tighten. These spasms make it difficult for the vocal folds to vibrate and produce sound. Words are often cut off or difficult to start due to muscle spasms. Making speech slurred and hoarse. The voice is usually described as strained or choked. Usually, the organ is usually absent during whispering, laughing, singing, speaking at a high pitch, or breathing. However, stress makes muscle spasms worse.
adder – Sudden involuntary muscle movements or opening of the vocal folds during speech. The open position of the vocal folds allows air to escape from the lungs during speech. As a result, the voice sounds weak, quiet, breathy and whispery. As with adductor spasmodic dysphonia, spasms are usually absent during activities such as laughing or singing.
And finally mixed – It involves the muscles that open the vocal folds as well as the muscles that close the vocal folds and thus features both adductor and abductor spasmodic dysphonia.
The exact cause of spasmodic dysphonia is unknown, and it can affect anyone, although it affects more women than men. The general medical consensus is that SD is a central nervous system disorder and a focal form of dystonia. Dystonia is a general neurological term for a variety of problems characterized by excessive muscle contractions with associated abnormal movements and postures.
Dystonia is thought to be a disorder caused by abnormal function in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. Basal ganglia, which are structures located deep in the brain that help coordinate muscle movements throughout the body.
There is currently no known cure for spasmodic dysphonia, and currently available treatments only temporarily improve the symptoms of this voice disorder. Voice therapy may alleviate some symptoms, especially in mild cases. Currently available treatment involves injecting very small amounts of botulinum toxin (Botox) directly into the affected muscles of the larynx. The poison weakens the muscles by blocking nerve impulses to the muscles. The injections usually improve the voice for a period of three to four months after which the voice symptoms gradually return. Repeat injections every 3-6 months are needed indefinitely to maintain a good speaking voice. Early side effects that usually subside after a few days to a few weeks include temporary weakness, wheezing, and/or occasional difficulty swallowing.
I was officially diagnosed by a doctor in March 2007, but I first noticed problems with my voice in 2002. I worked in a job where I was on the phone constantly, all day and since 1998. I began to notice. I began to find the odd word in my sentence funny and realized that if I repeated that particular word, no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t sound ‘normal’. At first, I just ignored it and fought my speech. But then people started noticing, which made me more aware of the problem.
It went downhill from there over the next few years and my spasms and breaks in my speech became more frequent, almost other words. I was afraid of talking to people and hated talking on the phone because it seemed to make the condition worse, the muscles in my throat would tense up so much that I would feel like I was strangling myself! I had to literally force and push the words out, all this effort to speak was extremely tiring and by the end of the day I was exhausted.
I started doing some research on the internet to find out what the problem was and when I heard a clip of a patient with SD, I immediately knew this was what I had. I first visited a speech therapist and had a few sessions with her but the exercises didn’t help my voice at first. She recommended talking to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor at a local hospital because he specializes in spasmodic dysphonia.
So next I was referred to this ENT doctor who examined my throat using a fiberoptic nasolaryngoscopy, a procedure in which a small lighted tube is passed through the nose and into the throat, a useful tool that allowed him to assess the movement of the voice during my speech. He immediately confirmed SD and explained that the only current treatment was botox injections into my vocal cords every three months. I tried this method for about a year but I wasn’t getting the desired results so I don’t have them anymore.
At the moment I’m just practicing different exercises and my speaking has improved slightly over the last year, so I’ll persevere. I have read and talked to people who have overcome SD in a big way using various techniques, which are a great inspiration and I hope that one day I can overcome SD as well.
I find SD to be a life changing condition, most people take their voice for granted and losing that privilege is something that is hard to come to terms with. So I decided to set up a forum for other SD sufferers so that we can chat about it there, get support/advice from each other and talk to someone else who can understand and is in the same boat.
I hope this forum will be a lifesaver for other SD sufferers, we can all fight this battle together. This can be found at the Spasmodic Dysphonia Forum
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