Vocal cord dysfunction is a generalized term used to describe a neuropathy in the vagus nerve.
This is different from a wheeze when breathing out, which is more consistent with asthma.
The human voice is not just a tool; it’s an embodiment of individuality, character, and emotion. An interruption to this vital instrument, such as vocal cord dysfunction, can profoundly impact our daily interactions, self-confidence, and overall quality of life. At AAENT, with our dedicated centers in Annapolis, MD, and Severna Park, MD, we prioritize understanding and treating vocal cord issues. Our approach merges advanced medical techniques with personalized patient care, ensuring that every individual receives the insights, treatments, and support necessary to reclaim the full richness of their voice.
Symptoms of Vocal Cord Dysfunction
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Tightness in the throat or chest
- Hoarse voice or voice changes
- Wheezing or coughing
- Frequent throat clearing
- Feeling as if something is stuck in the throat
What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
Vocal cord dysfunction is a generalized term used to describe a neuropathy in the vagus nerve that causes a feeling of constantly having a lump in one’s throat or a tight feeling. You may struggle to inhale enough air, which can be painful or cause tension. Patients also may hear noise when they are breathing in, called stridor. This is different from a wheeze when breathing out, which is more consistent with asthma. It can also include:
Chronic throat clearing due to the constant sensation of throat irritation due to faulty nerve signals. Often confused with sinus drainage.
Neurogenic cough, which occurs as a result of nerve irritation instead of inflammation or infection
Paradoxical True Vocal Cord Movement, sometimes called exercise induced asthma, is when the vocal cords close when they should be opening. This condition can mimick asthma, and can lead to passing out.
How do we evaluate Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
The first thing we do is listen to the quality of the patient’s voice. We then perform a complete otolarygologic and airway exam with special attention to the sinuses, oral cavity, and neck to rule out other treatable causes.
A flexible laryngoscopy can then performed following placement of medicine to open up and numb the nose and throat. This allows evaluation of the vocal cords for inflammation, tumors, and movement. If any significant findings are discovered or if the cause of the voice disorder is not discovered by the initial examinations, then a flexible laryngoscopy with videostroboscopy is performed.
A flexible laryngoscopy and videostroboscopy is performed in conjunction with our Speech Pathologist, Heather Langford who has over 20 years experience with voice and swallowing analysis. The videostroboscopy portion of the procedure allows evaluation of the wave created on the vocal cord by flashing a light in sequence with the frequency of the voice. The images are then recorded for a more in depth analysis for lesions not easily seen with the naked eye. The vocal cords vibrate faster than the human retinae can see. The videostroboscopy also allows an in depth analysis of the movement of the vocal cords, such as movement found in partial paralysis or paralysis.
Why Addressing Vocal Cord Dysfunction is Crucial
- Critical for Communication: The voice isn’t just for speaking. It’s vital for connecting with others, expressing emotions, and professional interactions. Disruption in this tool can impact both personal and professional lives.
- Physical Implications: Left untreated, vocal cord dysfunction can lead to physical complications and negatively affect overall respiratory health.
- Quality of Life: A constant struggle with one’s voice can decrease self-confidence, cause stress, and contribute to mental health concerns.
Treatment Process at AAENT
How do we treat Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
Vocal cord dysfunction is generally treated by identifying triggers and removing any irritants such as sinus drainage, environmental factors and intrinsic reflux or GERD. For example, managing Gastro-esophageal Reflux with medications such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors, treating sinus infections or allergies etc.
We can also use medications to calm the damaged nerves, and keep them from constantly signaling, until they are healed.
Other treatments that may be helpful include therapeutic breathing exercises that can be taught by our speech pathologist, to help you relax your throat, breathe with your abdomen and keep your vocal folds open.
Preventing Vocal Cord Dysfunction
- Vocal Hygiene: Regular voice rest and hydrating adequately can protect the vocal cords.
- Avoid Irritants: Limiting exposure to irritants like smoke and minimizing excessive throat clearing can prevent strain.
- Voice Training: Proper training, especially for professional voice users, can teach techniques to reduce strain and prevent injury.
- Regular Check-ups: Regular visits to an ENT doctor can help in early detection and management of any anomalies.
The Future for Patients with Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Patients grappling with vocal cord dysfunction can take solace in the knowledge that with AAENT’s expert care, their vocal challenges can be surmounted. Our specialized approach, grounded in comprehensive diagnostics and tailored treatment plans, aims to rebuild the vocal strength and flexibility that might have been compromised. While the road to full vocal recovery may have its hurdles, our unwavering support ensures that every step taken is towards a future where one’s voice resonates with confidence, clarity, and character. As patients progress, they’ll find that their voice, once a point of distress, transforms into a cherished asset, echoing their emotions and thoughts effortlessly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
A: Vocal cord dysfunction is a condition where the vocal cords do not open and close properly, leading to symptoms like voice changes, breathing difficulties, and throat discomfort.
Q: How does AAENT diagnose Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
A: At AAENT, we use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools like laryngoscopy, voice assessment tests, and a thorough review of your medical history to accurately diagnose the condition.
Q: Are the treatments for Vocal Cord Dysfunction invasive?
A: Treatments vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. While many patients benefit from non-invasive voice therapy sessions, others might require more advanced interventions. Our doctors at AAENT will craft a treatment plan tailored to each patient’s unique needs.
Connect With the Experts at AAENT
Your voice is an integral part of who you are, a reflection of your emotions, thoughts, and identity. When faced with challenges like vocal cord dysfunction, it’s imperative to turn to those who understand its intricacies. At AAENT, we possess both the knowledge and compassion required to address such sensitive concerns. Whether you or a loved one are experiencing the early signs of vocal issues or are already navigating the complexities of vocal cord dysfunction, our team is poised to guide you on the path to recovery. Reach out to us at (410) 573-9191. Let our seasoned professionals, who have dedicated their careers to vocal health, ensure that your voice receives the attention and care it deserves. At AAENT, your vocal wellness truly remains at the heart of our commitment.