Voice Health Concerns Cast Uncertainty Over RFK Jr.’s Candidacy!

The sudden admission of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. into the 2024 presidential race has rekindled interest in his unusual speech ailment, spasmodic dysphonia.

For a candidate running against an incumbent president within the same party, the son of the late Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy has attracted a sizable following. According to a CNN poll conducted in May, 20% of Democrats prefer Kennedy to President Joe Biden.

Below is what you need to know about spasmodic dysphonia and how it affects Kennedy’s campaign. To Cleveland Clinic estimates, one person in 100,000 will experience spasmodic dysphonia.

The condition prevents the vocal cords from vibrating in a way that results in a typical speech pattern that impacts the muscles in the larynx, also called the voice box.

“Spasmodic dysphonia causes voice breaks during speaking and can make the voice sound tight, strained, or breathy,” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders said. “In more severe cases, spasms may occur on every word, making a person’s speech very difficult to understand.”

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The disease is “thought to be caused by abnormal functioning in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia,” which regulates language and motor coordination. Dr*g addiction and strokes both have an impact on basal ganglia function.

Although there isn’t a single gene that causes spasmodic dysphonia, the fact that the condition runs in families raises the possibility that family genetic mutation patterns are to blame.

Speech therapy and Botox injections are the most often used types of treatment, even though there is no known cure for the illness.

Robert Kennedy Jr Voice Issue

Spasmodic dysphonia patients who receive Botox treatments for their condition see a reduction in the aberrant vocal cord muscle contractions that cause voice distortion.

The injections can enhance voice function after 24 hours. The vocal cords regain their usual strength over a few weeks as new nerve cells grow, which causes the dysphonia to recur.

Surgery may be an option in extreme situations, but each patient’s treatment program is unique. According to NIDCD, “to date, there are no comparative studies pointing to a single, best treatment.” Videos of RFK Jr.’s public appearances that advance in time reveal that his voice started to shift in the late 1990s.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2007, Kennedy said that “the disease didn’t hit me until I was about 43,” which is often remembered as the first time he openly disclosed his disorder. He said then, “it is an effort” to speak, yet it wasn’t physically uncomfortable.

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Kennedy also mentioned receiving Botox treatments for the condition but claimed that his doctors “still [hadn’t] gotten [his] dose right.” The Stanford University School of Medicine’s treatment recommendations state that because “[a]ll patients are different, the amount of Botox that is needed from patient to patient is different.”

Kennedy was forthright with Winfrey about his dr*g addiction treatment, which he claimed started “pretty soon after” his father’s murder in 1968. Kennedy entered a recovery program after being accused of possessing heroin in 1986, calling it “miraculous” in its ability to end his addiction.

Kennedy told Winfrey that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, “I don’t think any of us were aware of how damaging drugs could be.”

Without access to Kennedy’s medical records, which include radiographic scans of the brain, it is impossible to provide a more conclusive assessment of the specifics of his disease, even though there are known connections between heroin consumption and basal ganglia dysfunction.

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