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Spasmodic Dysphonia

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Spasmodic Dysphonia

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


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:


A person with SD may have:

  • 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 symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

Other doctors may need to be seen, such as:

  • Neurologist—to check brain function
  • Speech pathologist—to check speech and how it is made
  • Otolaryngologist—to check the vocal cords


There is no cure for SD. 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.





  • Hintze, J.M., Ludlow, C.L., et al. Spasmodic dysphonia: A review. Part 1: Pathogenic factors. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 2017; 157 (4): 551-557.
  • Hintze, J.M., Ludlow, C.L., et al. Spasmodic dysphonia: A review. Part 2:Characterization of pathophysiology. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 2017; 157 (4): 558-564.
  • Hoarseness - approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/hoarseness-approach-to-the-patient.
  • Spasmodic dysphonia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/spasmodic-dysphonia.
  • Spasmodic dysphonia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/spasmodic-dysphonia.
  • Spasmodic dysphonia. National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association website. Available at: https://dysphonia.org/voice-conditions/spasmodic-dysphonia.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.