Respiratory Dystonia

Respiratory dystonia is a syndrome caused by laryngeal dystonia in which the larynx’s breathing function is affected. Laryngeal dystonia much more commonly affects the voice (spasmodic dysphonia) rather than breathing, but occasionally it affects only breathing, or both breathing and voice.

Individuals afflicted with respiratory dystonia may have difficulty inhaling air through a glottis closed by adductory spasms, or may be able to inhale without difficulty but then to find it hard to breathe out, as the victim of involuntary breath-holding.

Respiratory Dystonia and the Struggle to Breathe

Visual Portfolio, Posts & Image Gallery for WordPress

AD SD (1 of 2)

This man has adductory spasmodic dysphonia. He also struggles to breathe because his vocal cords do not remain open as shown here when he breathes in, but instead intermittently spasm briefly to a closed or nearly-closed position, such as seen in photo 2.

Involuntarily adduction (2 of 2)

An example of an involuntary partial closure. Instead of remaining open as in photo 1, they involuntarily adduct to a partially closed position. The patient feels the sudden restriction of his ability to inspire and he also makes an involuntary inspiratory noise. An example of the phenomenology of respiratory dystonia can be heard in the audio clips below.
Play Video about Respiratory Dystonia YouTube Thumbnail

Respiratory Dystonia

When Spasms Affect the Voice

In a peculiar disorder of breathing, “respiratory dystonia,” tiny spasms in the vocal cords prevent the smooth in- and out-flow of air to the lungs. It is as though the air comes in or goes out in little pieces rather than in a unified inspiration or expiration.

Quiet involuntary noises are heard from the throat, most often while trying to breathe in, and sometimes tiny “grunts” when breathing out.

Audio Examples