Strangled, throaty or husky voice or breathy or whispering voice
There are many causes of voice problems. If the problems do not go away, the first course of action is always to consult a doctor.
Sometimes a doctor may not be able to find any visible cause in the throat of what is causing the voice problems and the prescribed treatments do not seem to work. In this case, one possible cause is a voice dystonia.
Symptoms vary but can include:
- A strained voice sometimes with a tremor. It becomes an effort to speak. The voice has a strangled quality and/or a feeling of choking on words
- Alternatively, the voice can be breathy, whispering or very quiet. It is very difficult to project the voice especially in noisy environments.
The GP cannot detect physical symptoms in the throat on initial examination (the vocal cords can sometimes be seen to spasm using an endoscope but a GP wouldn’t do this procedure)
Voice dystonia (known medically as laryngeal dystonia or sometimes spasmodic dysphonia) commonly appears in people between the ages of 30 and 50 but does sometimes affect younger people. It is a form of dystonia – a condition that causes uncontrollable and often painful muscle contractions believed to be as a result of incorrect messages from the brain to the muscles.
If the symptoms listed above appear, the correct course of action is for a GP to make a referral to an ear, nose and throat surgeon specialising in laryngeal dystonia. There are treatments for laryngeal dystonia that can significantly reduce the symptoms in the majority of cases.
Only a specialist has the knowledge and skill to diagnose and treat laryngeal dystonia. If the patient and their GP agree that the symptoms might possibly indicate laryngeal dystonia then the GP should refer the patient to such a specialist.
The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment.It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.
The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.
Last reviewed October 2011