Vocal Cord Dysfunction describes the abnormal closure of the vocal folds that occurs when a patient attempts to breathe in. This causes symptoms of stridor, or noisy breathing and shortness of breath. Episodes of vocal cord dysfunction often affect females more than males, and may be associated with exercise, even in experienced athletes. Vocal cord dysfunction is also known as paradoxical vocal fold motion.
Patients with vocal cord dysfunction may be treated for asthma without any benefit due to similar symptoms.
- Difficulty moving air in or out of lungs
- Sensation of “air being cut off” or “throat closing off”
- Noisy breathing
- Tightness in the throat
Evaluation includes a thorough history and physical including laryngoscopy. A physician may examine for irritants that incite these events including allergies, acid reflux and post nasal drip, and treat accordingly.
A large portion of controlling vocal cord dysfunction involves managing these attacks properly. This may be done with the help of a speech language pathologist.
Breathing exercise reviewed may involve:
Repeated inhalation through the nose. This causes the vocal folds to open and ‘break the cycle’ of vocal fold closure.
Breathing out against pursed lips as if inflating a balloon or blowing out a candle.
Vocal cord dysfunction may be scary during times of episodes and frustrating for patients who do not have a proper diagnosis. It is important that a patient with these symptoms be evaluated by an otolaryngologist.