Thursday, April 20, 2023

What voice disorder does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have?

What voice disorder does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have?

According to ABC News, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suffers from "spasmodic dysphonia, a specific form of an involuntary movement disorder called dystonia that affects only the voice box." This is not a life-threatening illness but it can certainly affect one's quality of life.

Other people who have it say "losing your voice hits people in their primary, intimate connection to the outside world and affects nearly every aspect of their lives."

In a conversation with Oprah Winfrey for the February 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Robert went into detail regarding the rare disorder.

"The disease didn't hit me until I was about 43. I used to have a strong voice," he revealed. While it doesn't hurt, it certainly makes life a bit more complicated.

In the beginning, his symptoms were slight and came in the form of a "mild tremble for a couple of years." Evidently, they shouldn't worsen, but Robert believes his did.

How does one treat spasmodic dysphonia?

"There's a treatment for it: Botox shots. They put a needle into your voice box every four months," shared Robert.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders also lists behavioral therapy (voice therapy) as a way to treat spasmodic dysphonia. However, this should be done in conjunction with Botox injections.

While there are surgical options available, the results are usually temporary. Dr. Robert Bastian, a former spokesman for Dysphonia International, told ABC News that "If you do anything surgical, the dystonia tries to win. It tries to figure out a way around its obstruction." Unfortunately, the cause is unknown which might explain why treatment is difficult to pin down.

For now, the "best guess spasmodic dysphonia experts have ... is that root of the neurological disorder lies in the basal ganglia," which is often referred to as the "processing area" of the brain.

Thankfully, organizations like Dysphonia International are "dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by spasmodic dysphonia and related voice conditions through research, education, awareness, and support," per its website.

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