Understanding Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Understanding Vocal Cord Dysfunction

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

 

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