Spasmodic Dysphonia

(SD; Adductor Laryngeal Breathing Dystonia (ABLD); Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia; Abductor Spasmodic Dysphonia; Dysphonia, Episodic Laryngeal Dyskinesia; Laryngeal Dystonia; Spastic Dysphonia)

How to Say It: dis-FOH-nee-ah


Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder. The muscles of the throat freeze or go into spasms. This makes it hard to speak.

The main types of SD are:

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


Spasmodic dysphonia affects the throat muscles.
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SD is caused by a problem with the central nervous system. The areas of the brain that control these muscle movements are deep within the brain.

Risk Factors

SD is more common in women and people who are between 30 and 50 years of age.

Other things that may raise the risk are:


Problems may be:

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


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

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You may be referred to a team of specialists, such as:

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


There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

  • Speech therapy
  • Medicines to relax the muscles needed to speak
  • Devices to help with communication
  • Counseling to learn to cope with SD

People who are not helped by other methods may need surgery to cut or remove a nerve that is connected to the vocal cords.


There are no current guidelines to prevent SD.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association


Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
Speech-Language and Audiology Canada


Hintze JM, Ludlow CL, et al. Spasmodic dysphonia: A revie. Part 1: Pathogenic factors. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;157(4):551-557.
Hintze JM, Ludlow CL, et al. Spasmodic dysphonia: A revie. Part 2:Characterization of pathophysiology. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;157(4):558-564.
Spasmodic dysphonia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: Accessed January 26, 2021.
Spasmodic dysphonia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders website. Available at:
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Accessed January 26, 2021.
Spasmodic dysphonia. National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association website. Available at: Accessed January 26, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/26/2021

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