The vocal cords are located inside the larynx, also known as the voice box. As you speak, air moves from the lungs through the vocal cords, causing them to vibrate. Any condition that prohibits the vocal cords from vibrating and producing your natural voice is considered a voice disorder. Two common voice disorders are vocal cord nodules and polyps.
Vocal Cord Nodules
A vocal cord nodule is a benign growth. They form when the voice is misused, causing your vocal cords to swell. These swollen areas become harder over time, forming callouses. Continued vocal trauma will cause the callouses to become even larger and stiffer.
Vocal Cord Polyps
Polyps can form on one or both vocal cords. They can appear in many ways: a swollen spot, bump, blister or thin, long growth. Polyps tend to be larger than nodules. If someone has many chronic polyps, they are said to have polypoid degeneration or Reinke’s edema.
Signs & Symptoms of Nodules/Polyps
Whether you have nodules or polyps on your vocal cords, the symptoms are very similar and include:
- Rough/scratchy voice
- Pain from ear to ear
- Lump in the throat sensation
- Neck pain
- Impaired ability to change vocal pitch
- Voice and body fatigue
Causes of Nodules/Polyps
In general, nodules are caused by long-term vocal abuse, like chronic throat clearing, while polyps tend to be caused after just one instance of vocal abuse, like screaming at a concert. Vocal abuse can take many forms, including:
- Tense muscles
- Talking loudly
- Drinking excessive caffeine/alcohol
Treatment for Nodules/Polyps
A variety of factors, like the underlying cause, size of nodules/polyps and symptoms, affect what treatment is recommended.
The first step is to address any underlying medical problems that are causing issues. For example, you may need to manage your reflux, allergies or thyroid problems before the nodules or polyps can clear up. Medical help may also be necessary to help you quit smoking or manage stress levels.
Speech-language therapy is beneficial for some to learn how to take care of the voice by practicing vocal hygiene. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can teach you how to stop vocal abuse with exercises to reduce breathiness and correct volume/pitch problems.
Surgery is recommended only in cases where nodules or polyps are large or have been present for a long time.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Arizona Desert ENT Specialists today.