Reviewed by Heather L. Hodges (Gustafson), MA, CCC-SLP, J. Tod Olin, MD, MSCS

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) and Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction (EILO) are confused with asthma, because the two respiratory diseases share similar symptoms.

People with VCD and EILO may experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest and/or throat tightness

  • Feeling they are "breathing through a straw"

  • Stridor/wheezing

  • Difficulty with inhalation and/or exhalation

  • Frequent throat clearing

  • Intermittent hoarseness

  • Chronic cough.

When VCD and EILO are not correctly identified, people are often treated with asthma medications. Since VCD and EILO are separate diagnoses from asthma, symptoms do not improve or only minimally improve with asthma medications. Incorrect diagnosis and treatment may also lead to frequent emergency room visits and hospitalizations. People unnecessarily taking medication suffer side effects without enjoying any of the benefits of the medication. Some people do have both asthma and VCD or EILO and will need to be appropriately treated for both conditions.

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