Patients living with a poorly understood chronic voice disorder which causes involuntary muscle spasms, impairing speech and swallowing, can now receive treatment at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The laryngeal dystonia clinic – the first of its kind in Yorkshire – sees and treats patients suffering with debilitating speech and swallowing impediments from dystonia with a combination of voice therapy and Botox-like injections. Previously patients needing this treatment had to travel as far afield as Manchester, Middlesbrough or Brighton for this service.
Laryngeal dystonia or voice dystonia is a frustrating speech disorder where the muscle tone in the voice box alters, causing involuntary sustained muscle contractions, and a tight, strangled or breathy sounding voice quality, often with abrupt starting and stopping of the voice.
The rare neurological disorder significantly reduces the quality of a person’s life, impairing their ability to eat, drink and talk. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown – but incorrect messages being sent from the brain to the muscles are believed to trigger the involuntary spasms in the throat. This trigger could be linked to ill health, stress or a traumatic life event.
Depending on their needs, patients are either offered a course of botulinum toxin injections, which can be given straight away in the clinic, or are referred for further speech language therapy support. This could include special voice strengthening exercises and reflux management. The botulinum toxin injections need to be repeated every three months as these temporarily relieve symptoms by weakening or paralysing the affected area.
Professor Jaydip Ray, clinical director and consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: “Patients suffering with laryngeal dystonia have an absolute miserable existence as they know what it is happening to them, and as well as the practical limitations of this condition it’s terribly frustrating not being able to get your voice out. Patients in the area previously had to travel huge distances to receive treatment, compounding the frustrations of an already burdensome disorder, so we are delighted to be the first NHS Trust in Yorkshire and one of only a few in the country to provide this specialist multidisciplinary service.”
Pictured: Speech language therapist Karen Esposito with Ann Valentine at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.