Vocal Cord Nodules & Polyps

Your vocal folds are inside your larynx, or voice box. When you talk, air moves from your lungs through the vocal folds to your mouth. The vocal folds vibrate to produce sound. Anything that makes it harder for the vocal folds to vibrate can cause a voice problem.

Vocal fold nodules are growths that form on the vocal folds. They are benign, or not cancerous. When you use your voice the wrong way, your vocal folds may swell. Over time, the swollen spots can get harder, like a callous. These nodules can get larger and stiffer if your vocal abuse continues.

Polyps can be on one or both of the vocal folds. They may look like a swollen spot or bump, a blister, or a thin, long growth. Most polyps are bigger than nodules. You may hear them called polypoid degeneration or Reinke’s edema. It may be easiest to think of a nodule as a callous and a polyp as a blister.

vocal cord

Causes of Vocal Fold Nodules and Polyps

Most of the time, vocal abuse or misuse causes nodules. Long-term vocal abuse can cause polyps, too. But polyps may happen after just one instance of vocal abuse, like yelling at a concert. Smoking cigarettes for a long time, thyroid problems, and reflux may also cause polyps.

A vocal fold cyst is a firm mass of tissue contained within a membrane. Much like vocal cord polyps and nodules, the size and location of the cysts will directly affect the severity of your hoarseness or other voice problem.

Symptoms of Vocal Fold Growths

These growths can cause hoarseness and a lump-in-the-throat sensation. In order to diagnose a growth on the vocal cord, your doctor will review your medical history and complete a physical exam, including a voice evaluation. An endoscope may be used to get a closer look at the vocal cords. This procedure involves use of a thin lighted instrument to visualize the vocal cords and their movement.

How Are Vocal Fold Growths Treated?

Treatment for nodules and polyps depends on their size, etiology and the patient’s symptoms. Some may be removed surgically. Behavioral intervention, specifically learning good vocal hygiene in order to prevent additional vocal abuse, is usually recommended for most.

Call Topeka ENT at 785-233-0500 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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