Types of Voice Disorders
We all have experienced hoarseness during a cold, bronchitis, allergy attack, or after cheering at a sports event. Even a chemical irritant in the air can cause a raspy or lost voice. These are temporary causes of vocal problems, and your voice will return to normal within a day or so.
Certain vocal disorders are more critical, and require medical attention. If you have experienced a hoarse voice for more than 2 to 3 weeks, you should see a physician.
Vocal disorders include laryngitis, which is inflammation of the larynx (voice box). Often, a viral infection is the cause. However, backflow of stomach acids (reflux) can also cause laryngitis.
Let’s look at several more voice disorders:
Vocal cord polyps and nodules
Nodules are like callouses on your vocal cords, whereas polyps are similar to blisters.
Nodules are benign (noncancerous) growths that begin as soft, swollen spots and develop into harder growths. Polyps may be a swelling or bump (like a nodule), a growth, or a lesion (like a blister). Polyps are often larger than nodules.
Nodules and polyps are treated several ways — with medications to reduce the size, surgically to remove the growth, and/or with voice therapy. In voice therapy, you will learn about reducing vocal abuse as well as altering pitch, loudness, or breath. Stress reduction and relaxation are often taught as well.
Vocal cord paralysis
With this condition, one or both vocal cords are unable to vibrate, causing voice, breathing and swallowing difficulties.
If you have bilateral vocal cord paralysis, both vocal cords have become stuck between open and closed. Medication can help relieve the paralysis. In some cases, surgery is necessary.
When only one vocal cord is paralyzed, you will be unable to speak very clearly or loudly. This condition is more common than bilateral paralysis. Medications, injections and surgery are all options.
You can also benefit from voice therapy, and learn to alter your voice pitch to increase breath and loudness. Research has shown that voice therapy is an effective intervention after diagnosis, to help you function until the problem is resolved.
Paradoxical vocal fold movement
Often confused with asthma, this disorder causes wheezing and breathing difficulty. This is because the vocal cords have closed. Coughing, shouting, acid reflux, exercise, and breathing cold air, smoke and pollen can trigger these episodes. Stressful situations can also cause an episode.
Identifying the triggers, and avoiding them, is an important goal. Medication can help relieve the problem, as well as relaxation training.
For more information and descriptions of various vocal disorders contact:
Todd A. Schneiderman, MD FACS
215 Union Avenue Suite C
Bridgewater, NJ 08807