Vodka as Medicine? Researcher Using Alcohol as Possible Treatment for Laryngeal Dystonia

By Jodee Redmond from In The Cloud Copy

Dr. Kristina Simonyan has been studying patients with laryngeal dystonia. Through the scope of her work, she has heard numerous anecdotal accounts of people finding their symptoms improving after they have consumed alcohol. Over time, there were too many accounts to dismiss them out of turn. Dr. Simonyan decided there were enough claims to warrant further investigation.

What is Laryngeal Dystonia?

Laryngeal dystonia affects a patient’s speech. This disorder causes the larynx to move involuntarily, leading to the affected person’s voice to have a strained, tight quality. Women develop laryngeal dystonia more often than men. The average age at onset is 30-50 years of age.

No one knows the exact cause of this disorder. In most cases, laryngeal dystonia is thought to be related to the nervous system. The true cause remains a mystery since the vocal cords are healthy and can move correctly to form the sounds necessary for clear speech. No one knows why the signals necessary for them to do so become scrambled.

How is Laryngeal Dystonia Diagnosed?

Several steps are required to diagnose laryngeal dystonia. They are as follows:

  1. The doctor takes a complete medical history.
  2. A physical examination is performed.
  3. The vocal folds are examined by passing a lighted tube through the nose into the larynx to assess their movement when the patient speaks. This procedure is called a fiberoptic nasolaryngoscopy.

Treatment for Laryngeal Dystonia

To date, treatment options for laryngeal dystonia have been limited to treating symptoms to reduce their effect on a patient’s everyday life.

  • Botox injections are an option; however, they must be administered precisely to the appropriate muscle’s nerve input to paralyze it. If the injection is off by as little as a millimeter, the results won’t be as effective.
  • Surgery may be performed for some patients. The surgeon would cut the nerves that are going into spasms and replace them with new ones. The hoped-for outcome is that the patient will resume speaking in a normal voice.

Survey Conducted with 531 Patients

Dr. Simonyan distributed patient questionnaires to find out more about laryngeal dystonia patients’ responses to alcohol. She wanted to find out whether they could speak better after they had consumed intoxicating beverages because it helped them to relax or if something else was at work.

The results were intriguing. More than half of the respondents stated that their symptoms improved when they drank alcohol. Several of them said they sometimes turned to alcohol to help them when they had to interact with others, either professionally or socially.

To test patients’ abilities after consuming alcohol, Dr. Simonyan asks them to repeat several brief poems composed to emphasize sounds the patients have particular difficulty with. She understands this is not necessarily a comfortable experience for the patients. This is the best way to measure whether alcohol consumption is helping the patients’ performance improve or it is a case of placebo effect. Dr. Simonyan will still need to convince her fellow researchers if the results of her research point to alcohol being beneficial as a treatment option by conducting clinical studies.

Read more about this here.

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