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Voice and Laryngeal Disorders

Voice and Laryngeal Disorders, Symptoms and Causes

Vocal cord disorders include conditions such as laryngitis, vocal nodules, vocal polyps and vocal cord paralysis.

Voice and Laryngeal Disorder Symptoms:

The symptoms of voice and laryngeal disorders vary based on the specific condition.

  • Laryngitis is one of the most common voice and laryngeal disorders. It is often characterized by a raspy or hoarse voice due to inflammation of the vocal cords.
  • Vocal nodules are benign (non-cancerous) growths on the vocal cords that cause the voice to be hoarse, low and breathy. The nodules usually form on areas of the vocal cords that receive the most pressure when the cords come together and vibrate (similar to the formation of a callous).
  • A vocal polyp, also called Reinke's edemas or polypoid degeneration, is a soft, benign (non-cancerous) growth, similar to a blister. A polyp usually grows alone on one vocal cord. Voice polyps are a vocal cord disorder that causes the voice to be hoarse, low and breathy.
  • Vocal cord paralysis may occur when either or both vocal cords, or vocal folds, do not open or close properly. A common vocal cord disorder, this condition can range from relatively mild to life threatening. When one or both vocal cords are paralyzed, the open cord(s) allows food or liquids to slip into the trachea and lungs. A person may experience difficulty swallowing and coughing.
  • Contact ulcers on the vocal cords may cause the voice to tire easily and may cause a sore throat.

Voice and Laryngeal Disorder Causes:

The causes of voice and laryngeal disorders vary based on the specific condition. However, they are often caused by excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, coughing and yelling. These disorders are also caused by smoking, inhaling irritants or by gastroesophageal reflux (the backup of stomach acid into the throat, also known as GERD).

Vocal nodules are caused by vocal abuse and are one of the common voice disorders of professional singers.

Vocal polyps are often caused by long-term cigarette smoking. Other causes of vocal polyps include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and continuous voice misuse. Voice polyps cause the voice to be hoarse, low and breathy.

Vocal cord paralysis may be caused by:

  • Head trauma
  • Neck injury
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Lung or thyroid cancer
  • Certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease
  • Viral infection

Contact ulcers on the vocal cords can occur when too much force is used in speech or by gastroesophageal reflux.