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 paralysis happens when one or both vocal folds are not able to move. It can also cause breathing and swallowing problems.
There are different types of vocal fold paralysis. Bilateral vocal fold paralysis means that both vocal folds will not move. They become stuck halfway between open and closed.
Unilateral vocal fold paralysis is when only one fold will not move or only moves a little bit. It is more common than bilateral paralysis. The paralyzed vocal fold does not vibrate with the other fold. The person’s voice will not sound clear or loud. They may run out of air when speaking.
Causes of Vocal Cord Paralysis
Vocal cord paralysis occurs when the nerve impulses to your voice box are disrupted. There are a number of possible causes of this condition, including:
- Viral Infection.
- Neurological Condition.
- Neck or Cheek Injury.
- Injury During Surgery.
Symptoms of Vocal Cord Paralysis
Hoarseness, an inability to speak loudly and choking or coughing while eating are common signs of vocal cord paralysis. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will review your symptoms and complete a physical exam. An endoscope will be used so that your doctor can visualize your vocal cords and how they are moving.
How is Vocal Cord Paralysis Treated?
Bilateral vocal cord paralysis requires medical treatment. You might have surgery to bring one or both vocal folds closer to the middle.
You may need medical treatment for unilateral paralysis. This might include muscle-nerve transplant or surgery to move the paralyzed fold toward the middle. You might also have something injected into the fold to make it larger. This allows the other fold to move closer to it and may help your voice.
Voice therapy can also help unilateral paralysis. You can work with an SLP on changing your pitch and getting more breath support to speak louder. Changing your head position or pushing on your larynx may help your voice. Your doctor may want you to try voice therapy before you look into surgery or other medical treatments. It may be the only treatment that you need.
Call Topeka ENT at 785-233-0500 for more information or to schedule an appointment.