LARYNGOSPASM

A laryngospasm is an involuntary contraction of a larynx muscle. Although every individual attack goes by itself, one can be sensitive to laryngospasms for a long time, even up to life span.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?

This syndrome results from a spasm in the adductor muscles - the muscles closing or bringing the vocal folds together. From a technical standpoint, my observation is that the lateral cricoarytenoid is the main muscle activated, but possibly the thyroarytenoid as well. As soon as your voice box or the area of the windpipe below the voicebox detect the entry of water or other substance, the vocal folds spasm shut. Evolutionarily speaking, this works very well to keep water out of the lungs - if you start to drown or that errant bug flies down your throat while you were starting to inhale, or you inhale that glass of water, then the vocal cords very immediately and very effectively, close. 

That closure is a benefit to protect the airway, but it makes “breathing in” very difficult. It can happen even when only the sensation is present of something other than air entering the windpipe.

HOW ABOUT THE EXAMINATION?

The voice organ and its function are examined by an ENT doctor and a speech therapist. The voice has 3 functions: breathing, protecting the airway while swallowing and speaking. Every person is dependent on these 3 functions every moment of the day.

 

In addition to a thorough survey and a clinical examination of the neck, an inspection of the vocal cords (laryngoscopy) takes place at rest and during vocalisation. This is supplemented by a stroboscopy, research in which throughshort flashes of light, the vibration pattern of the vocal cords is delayed and thus displayed in more detail.

 
 
 

WHAT IS LARYNGOSPASM?

A spasm is any involuntary contraction of a muscle. The throat area has a number of muscles all of which have the potential to spasm. If laryngospasm is your condition, then the following should apply. 

 

The symptoms are very characteristic.

  • Abrupt, sudden onset

  • May occur anytime, but often noticable when eating and talking simultaneously and you feel that something went down the wrong way

  • May be awakened in the middle of the night unable to breathe

  • I personally have had it happen while camping, when a tiny bug flew down my throat

  • Feels like you are going to die or never breathe again

  • Typically lasts less than 30 or 60 seconds

  • Very noisy and difficult “breathing in”

  • Rather easy breathing out, still able to cough

  • Faster “breathing in” makes it worse

Please be sure a physician verifies that this is your condition.

 

TREATMENT

When laryngospasms occur, the mechanism can be reversed by breathing slowly. In addition to slow inhalation, sniffing is also a mechanism to open the vocal cords. The combination of breathing slowly and through the nose and breathing out quickly through the mouth opens the vocal cords so that there is sufficient air to the lungs. Here the stretching of the neck backwards can help.

 

If the laryngospasm remains despite these instructions, local injection of Botox (Botulinum toxin) into the sphincter muscles of the voice gap can be considered.

 

If the laryngospasm is provoked by a stimulus in the throat, a trial therapy with medication can be started.