Understanding Vocal Cord Dysfunction Make an Appointment Ask a Question Search Conditions This information has been reviewed and approved by Ann Mullen, AE-C, CNS, MSN, RN, Tod Olin, MD, MSCS and Heather Hodges (Gustafson), MA, CCC-SLP. (April 2015). Understanding Vocal Cord Dysfunction What is vocal cord dysfunction? Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is an abnormal narrowing of the larynx. It occurs in some people during high intensity exercise or exposure to certain irritants. This leaves only a small opening for air to flow through the windpipe which can feel like you can't get enough air into your lungs. It can cause symptoms that mimic asthma. What are vocal cords? Vocal cords are folds of tissue in the larynx (voice box) at the top of the trachea (windpipe). They protect the airway by coughing and throat clearing. Vocal cords open during breathing, close during swallowing, and vibrate for speaking, singing and making sounds. Causes Top three triggers that cause VCD are: Exercise Post-nasal drip Reflux Symptoms Shortness of breath Intermittent hoarseness or wheezing Chronic cough and/or throat clearing Chest and/or throat tightness Trouble getting air in Diagnosis A respiratory doctor will evaluate your breathing and determine what things make your symptoms worse. Treatment Speech therapy Breathing techniques Cough suppression Throat clearing techniques Voice therapy Treating other symptoms Allergies Infection Reflux Other health conditions Management Follow your treatment plan Use breathing and throat-clearing techniques Stay active More Information on Vocal Cord Dysfunction Vocal Cord Dysfunction Overview Conditions Associated with Vocal Cord Dysfunction Athletes and Asthma WATCH: Asthma May be Misdiagnosed Vocal Cord Dysfunction Treatment Programs Catching Her Breath: Candace Wollert Patient Story Make an Appointment Find a Doctor Want to use this on your website? Fill out the content usage request form and then copy this code: or download our Understanding Vocal Cord Dysfunction infographic poster (pdf).