By Mary Spremulli
A 66-year-old patient, I’ll call Sue, began to experience a voice problem about six years ago, which she described as a gradual onset of breathy voice. She was teaching an aerobics class when her problem first began and was able to manage with use of a voice amplifier. But, eventually, her breath voice use caused fatigue, embarrassment and uncertainly, as she could never predict if people would be able to understand her, particularly in noisy environments. Eventually, after several visits to ear, nose and throat doctors, she received a diagnosis of spasmodic dysponia.
Spasmodic dysphonia is often under diagnosed
Spasmodic dysphonia is a neurological disorder affecting approximately 50,000 people in North America. It can occur at any time in life, but, most often emerges in midlife or beyond, sometimes it seems to coincide with an upper respiratory infection or lingering laryngitis, and it occurs more often in women than men.
It falls into a family of neurological diseases called dystonia, and following Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, is the third most common movement disorder presenting as a voice disorder. Dystonia is a muscle spasm that can affect muscles anywhere in the body from eyelids to toes, but and when the vocal folds are affected, involuntary spasms in the tiny muscles of the larynx cause the voice to break up, sound strained, tight, strangled, breathy or whispery. The spasms often interrupts the sound, squeezing the voice to nothing in the middle of a sentence or dropping it to a whisper.
Patients often live with SD symptoms for years, frustrated by their voice but never knowing there is treatment available.
When patients finally obtain an accurate diagnosis and treatment information they often verbalize tremendous relief in finally understanding what their problem is and knowing that there are available medical and therapy options. Information, education and interaction with other people who have spasmodic dysphonia diagnosis is often empowering and life changing for some people who have suffered alone for many years.
If you would like to learn more about spasmodic dysphonia visit www.dysphonia.org.
Mary Spremulli, MA,CCC-SLP is owner of Voice Aerobics, LLC a private practice located in Punta Gorda, offering speech, voice and swallowing treatment to adults. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 941-204-1515 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.voiceaerobicsdvd.com.