I'm making this page about Spasmodic Dysphonia as after being diagnosed with this voice problem in 2007, I wanted to share my story and explain to people about this reliably unknown condition. I also wanted other SD sufferers to know that they are not alone in dealing with this problem and they can visit my forum for people with Spasmodic Dysphonia to share views, treatments, exercises etc
Explanation Of The Condition & My Story
Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder that involves involuntary “spasms” of the vocal cords during speech causing interrupts and affecting the voice quality. SD can cause the voice to break up or to have a tight, strained, or strangled quality.
There are three types of Spasmodic Dysphonia – Addductor, Abductor and Mixed.
Inductor – Involves sudden involuntary muscle movements or spasms cause the vocal folds (or vocal cords) to slam together and stiffen. These spasms make it difficult for the vocal folds to vibrate and produce voice. Words are often cut off or difficult to start because of the muscle spasms. Making speech choppy and sound hoarse. The voice is commonly described as strained or strangled. Typically, the spasms are usually absent while whispering, laughing, singing, speaking at a high pitch or speaking while breathing in. Stress, however, often makes the muscle spasms more severe.
Inductor – Involves sudden involuntary movements or spasms cause the vocal folds to open 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, breath and whispery. As with adductor spasmodic dysphonia, the spasms are often absent during such activities as laughing or singing.
And finally Mixed – This involves muscles that open the vocal folds as well as muscles that close the vocal folds and therefore has features of both adductor and abductor spasmodic dysphonia.
The exact cause of spasmodic dysphonia is unknown and it can affect anyone although more women appear to be affected than men.The general medical consensus is that SD is a central nervous system disorder and a focal form of dystonia. Dystonia is the general neurological term for a variety of problems characterized by excessive contraction of muscles with associated abnormal movements and postures.
Dystonia disorders are thought to be due to abnormal function in the area of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia, which are structures located deep in the brain that help coordinate movements of the muscles through the body.
At present there is no known cure for spasmodic dysphonia and current treatments available only help temporarily relive the symptoms of this voice disorder. Voice therapy may reduce some symptoms, especially in mild cases.The treatment available at the moment is injections of very small amounts of botulinum toxin (Botox) directly into the affected muscles of the larynx. The toxin weakens muscles by blocking the nerve impuls to the muscle. The injections generally improve the voice for a period of three to four months after which the voice symptoms typically return. Re injections are necessary every 3-6 months indefinitely to maintain a good speaking voice. Initial side effects that usually subside after a few days to a few weeks may include a temporary weak, breath voice and / or occasionalional swallowing difficulties.
I was officially diagnosed by a doctor in March 2007, but had first noticed a problem with my voice in about 2002. I worked in a job where I was on the telephone constantly, all day everyday and had been since 1998. I started to notice that the odd word in my sentences started to sound funny and realized if I repeated that particular word, no matter how hard I tried to make it sound 'normal' it would not. At first, I just ignored it and battled on with my speech. But then people started to notice, which made me even more self conscious about this problem.
Over the following years it was a downward spiral from there and the spasms and breaks in my speech became more frequent, nearly ever other word. I dreaded having to talk to people and hated talking on the phone as it seemed to make the condition worse, the muscles in my throat would just tense up so tight that it felt like I was being strangled by myself! I had to literally force and push the words out, it was extremely tiring having to put all this effort into speaking and by the end of the day I was exhausted.
I started to do some research on the internet to find out what this problem was and I listened to a clip of a patient with SD, I knew instantly that this is what I had got. I first visted a speech therapist and I had a few sessions with her but the exercises did not seem to actually help my voice. She recommended speaking to the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor at the local hospital as he was a specialist in Spasmodic Dysphonia.
So next I was referred to this ENT doctor who inspected my throat using Fiberoptic nasolaryngoscopy, a method wherey a small lighted tube is passed through the nose and into the throat, a helpful tool that allowed him to evaluate my vocal cord movement during speech. He confirmed SD immediately and explained the only current treatment was botox injections into my vocal chords every three months. I tried this method for about a year but I was not getting the desired results so I no longer have them.
At the moment I am just practicing with different exercises and my speech does seem to have improved slowly over the past year, so I will keep persevering. I have read and spoke to some people who have greatly surpassed SD using various techniques, who are a great inspiration and give me the hope that I may one day be able to overcome SD too.
I found SD to be quite 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 we can chat about it on there, get support / advice from each other and just generally talk to someone else who understands and is in the same boat.
I hope this forum will be a lifeline for other SD sufferers, we can all fight this battle together. It can be found here Spasmodic Dysphonia Forum