Vocal Cord Polyps
Vocal Cord Polyps
Vocal cord polyps, also known as vocal fold polyps, are noncancerous growths that develop on the vocal cords, which are located in the larynx (voice box). These polyps can affect a person's voice and vocal function, leading to changes in pitch, tone, and quality.
Vocal cord polyps can cause various symptoms, which may include:
Hoarseness or roughness in the voice
Breathiness or a weak voice
Reduced vocal range and difficulty hitting high notes (for singers)
Persistent throat discomfort or the sensation of having a lump in the throat
Voice fatigue, especially with prolonged speaking or singing
Reduced ability to project the voice
The exact cause of vocal cord polyps is not always clear, but they are often associated with vocal cord abuse or overuse. Factors that can contribute to their development include:
Chronic Voice Strain: Repeated and excessive use of the voice, such as shouting, screaming, singing loudly, or speaking in a strained manner, can irritate the vocal cords and lead to the formation of polyps.
Smoking: Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke can irritate the vocal cords and increase the risk of polyp formation.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Acid reflux, which causes stomach acid to flow back into the throat, can irritate and damage the vocal cords, potentially leading to the development of polyps.
Vocal Cord Trauma: Trauma to the vocal cords due to injury or surgery can increase the risk of polyps.
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If a person experiences persistent voice changes or other symptoms suggestive of vocal cord polyps, a healthcare provider, typically an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), will conduct a thorough evaluation.
Diagnosis may involve a laryngoscopy where a flexible or rigid scope is used to directly visualize the vocal cords and identify any abnormalities.
Videostroboscopies may also be done to allow for a more detailed assessment of vocal cord movement and vibrational patterns.
In some cases, a biopsy (small tissue sample) may be taken to rule out other potential causes of vocal cord symptoms, such as cancer.
The treatment of vocal cord polyps often involves a combination of medical and behavioral interventions:
Voice Rest: Resting the voice and avoiding behaviors that strain the vocal cords, such as yelling or smoking, can help reduce irritation and promote healing.
Voice Therapy: Speech therapy with a trained speech-language pathologist can teach individuals proper vocal techniques and habits to prevent recurrence and improve voice quality.
Medications: If GERD is contributing to vocal cord irritation, medications to manage acid reflux may be prescribed. Surgery: In cases where vocal cord polyps are large, persistent, or causing significant voice problems, surgical removal may be recommended.
Surgery: Surgery is typically performed with a laser or microsurgical instruments.
The prognosis for individuals with vocal cord polyps is generally favorable, especially when they follow recommended treatment and voice therapy. However, early evaluation and intervention are crucial for preventing the condition from worsening or causing more severe vocal problems.
If you suspect you have vocal cord polyps or are experiencing voice changes, it's important to seek evaluation and guidance from a healthcare professional, preferably one with expertise in voice disorders.