Skip to content

This information was reviewed and approved by J. Tod Olin, MD, MSCS (9/1/2017).

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), is also called inducible laryngeal obstruction (ILO).

It is often confused with asthma. These two respiratory diseases share similar symptoms.

People with VCD/ILO may experience the following symptoms:

  • Severe shortness of breath

  • Feeling like they are "breathing through a straw"

  • Stridor or wheezing

  • Chest and/or throat tightness

  • Coughing

  • Frequent throat clearing

  • Intermittent hoarseness 

When VCD/ILO is not correctly identified, it is often treated with asthma medicines. VCD/ILO is a separate diagnosis from asthma. VCD/ILO symptoms do not improve with asthma treatments.

Incorrect diagnosis and treatment may lead to frequent emergency room visits. It may also lead to using oral steroid medicine. Sometimes the wrong diagnosis leads to hospitalization.

There are side effects of taking asthma medicine when you don’t have asthma. If you have both asthma and VCD/ILO, you will need to be treated appropriately for both conditions.