Dysphonia is a disorder of the voice, often caused by abnormalities that affect vocal cord vibration. It hampers your ability to speak easily and clearly. Dysphonia can significantly impact your day-to-day life and even prevent you from doing your job.
People with dysphonia have difficulty using their voices for speaking. They may not experience the same difficulties all of the time. Symptoms can be recurrent and may occur with singing or prolonged speaking.
Symptoms may include the following:
- Hoarse voice
- Breathy or weak voice
- Tight or strained voice, as if requiring extra effort
- Voice that wavers or is choppy
Symptoms of dysphonia may come on suddenly or gradually. You may begin experiencing symptoms after an injury or upper respiratory infection.
There are several conditions that affect the voice, including the following:
- Muscle tension dysphonia (MTD): One of the most common voice disorders, MTD is due to an abnormal pattern of muscle activation.
- Vocal cord paralysis: There are many causes for this paralysis, including nerve damage from surgery, infection or certain cancers.
- Phonotraumatic lesions: Singers and others who use their voices professionally may develop cysts, polyps or nodules on their vocal cords.
- Precancerous lesions: Removing precancerous lesions on the vocal cords can help reduce the risk of cancer.
- Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP): A rare disease where tumors grow in the respiratory tract, RRP is called laryngeal papillomatosis when it affects the voice box.
- Paradoxical vocal cord motion (PVCM): Also called vocal cord dysfunction, PVCM is often misdiagnosed as asthma, although it can also be seen in patients with asthma.
- Neurological diseases: Voice changes are commonly associated with Parkinson's disease as well as other neurological conditions, such as dystonias, including spasmodic dysphonia.
Call your primary care physician if you experience any problems with your voice. If your doctor suspects you may have dysphonia or another disorder affecting your voice, they may recommend seeing a voice specialist.
Dysphonia Treatment at Rush
At Rush, we personalize treatment to your specific needs, with the goal of helping you speak more clearly and easily. Your treatment plan may involve one or more of the following:
- Voice therapy to improve vocal hygiene and vocal cord function.
- Medications to manage conditions that cause inflammation of the vocal folds, such as anti-reflux medication for laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) or neuromodulators for laryngeal sensitivity or paradoxical vocal fold motion.
- Botulinum toxin, or Botox, injections are the standard for managing dystonias, including spasmodic dysphonia. You'll usually get a Botox treatment every three to four months, targeting the muscles surrounding the vocal cords to relieve the spasms.
Rush Excellence in Dysphonia Care
- Expertise you can trust: Voice and swallowing experts at Rush can provide sophisticated diagnostic capabilities and comprehensive treatment options for dysphonia and other voice disorders, as well as issues with breathing and swallowing.
- Nationally ranked care: The neurology and neurosurgery and ENT programs at Rush University Medical Center, which addresses some of the causes of and treatments for dysphonia, are ranked among the best in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.