The vocal cords are also known as vocal folds. The voice of each individual is determined by the size and shape of these cords and the resonating cavities (throat, nose, and mouth). This article provides information on the causes and treatment of this condition.
The vocal cords are located on the larynx (at the top of the windpipe). They are responsible for the production of the sound. Usually while breathing, the vocal folds move away from each other to widen the opening of the windpipe, thereby facilitating the free movement of air. However, in some cases, the vocal folds may move towards each other while breathing, instead of moving away. This condition is named as the vocal cord dysfunction. This results in a blockage in the air passage, and the person may find it difficult to breathe.
Until recently, the exact cause of this condition was not known. However, it is believed to be associated with the following conditions:
- Nerve injury caused during surgery
- Psychological causes
- Excess exposure to toxic chemicals and smoke
- Straining exercise
- Chronic sinus infection
- Brainstem compression
- Injury to the cortex
The symptoms of this condition are difficult to diagnose, as they are similar to asthma. An individual may have difficulty in breathing; however, between the attacks, he/she would be able to breathe normally. The diagnosis becomes complicated, in case of an asthmatic. Some of the common signs include coughing, wheezing, stridor, change of voice, difficulty while inhaling and exhaling, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and a stuck-up throat. If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. He may recommend a laryngoscopy to diagnose the symptoms.
The treatment could be immediate or long-term. As the name suggests, the immediate treatment provides instant relief, and includes the heliox therapy, wherein a mixture of oxygen and helium is administered. This mixture is easy to inhale, as it is rich in oxygen and is lighter than the normal air. In extreme cases, a tracheotomy might be required, wherein a tube is inserted into the larynx to bypass the blocked vocal cord.
The long-term treatment includes treating the underlying symptoms of the condition. Thus, if a patient is undergoing treatment for other medical conditions such as asthma, those medications are stopped. As far as possible, irritants like toxic chemicals and smoke are removed from the surroundings of an individual. Moreover, the doctor may also try to diagnose other underlying causes and provide treatment accordingly.
If an individual does not show any improvement after undergoing all the treatment options, then he/she could be asked to perform certain exercises. Some of the most common exercises are abdominal breathing techniques and speech therapy. These techniques have proved to be successful. In abdominal breathing technique, a thumb is pressed against the right nostril and air is inhaled with the left one.
Then the middle finger is pressed on the left and the thumb is removed from the right nostril and air is exhaled. By this process the laryngeal muscles are released, thereby relaxing the vocal folds and relieving the air passage. You can also try out speech therapy, wherein you can exhale air through pursed lips (PLB) or by making a gentle ‘fff’ sound.
The dysfunction of the vocal cord can be treated with drug therapy, but it is better to try out exercises rather than medications. In case, you experience breathlessness or the aforementioned symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.