Singers, teachers, and speakers are among the common people affected by vocal cord problems due to overuse of the vocal chords. The common problems that can affect the voice are acute or chronic laryngitis, voice misuse or overuse, benign vocal cord lesions or hemorrhage, or laryngeal cancer.
Vocal cord dysfunction can affect your voice as well. It is often referred to as paradoxical vocal fold movement (PVFM), is defined as the abnormal closing of the vocal cords when breathing in or out. This occurs when the vocal cords fold and close when they are supposed to be open. Vocal cord dysfunction can be mistaken for asthma because it can be triggered by breathing in lung irritants, an upper respiratory infection or even exercising. But unlike asthma, vocal cord dysfunction is not an immune system reaction and does not involve the lower airways.
Signs and Symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction include:
Shortness of breath
Tightness of the throat or chest or feeling of choking
Frequent coughing or clearing the throat
Wheezing when taking breaths
Prevention of vocal cord dysfunction includes resting your voice, drinking plenty of fluids, encouraging salivation with gum or throat lozenges, and reducing stress. Treatment may involve speech therapy with specific voice and breathing exercises.
If you become hoarse frequently or notice voice change for an extended period of time or if taking in breaths has become more difficult than breathing out and if asthma has been ruled out (meaning your pulmonary, or breathing, tests are normal), it is important to see one of our Otolaryngologists (Ear Nose and Throat Doctor) for an evaluation.