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Vocal Fold Paralysis

Vocal Fold Paralysis

MEDICAL CONDITION

Vocal fold paralysis, also known as vocal cord paralysis, is a condition in which one or both of the vocal cords are partially or completely unable to move. This can lead to various voice and breathing problems, depending on the severity and cause of the paralysis. 

Causes

Causes of vocal fold paralysis may be neurological or structural.

Neurological Causes

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  • Idiopathic Paralysis: In some cases, the exact cause of vocal fold paralysis is unknown (idiopathic). It may be related to viral infections, trauma, or other factors that affect the nerves.

  • Neurological Diseases: Conditions like stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors can damage the nerves that control the vocal cords. 

  • Trauma or Injury: Physical trauma or surgery to the neck or chest can injure the nerves or muscles responsible for vocal cord movement.

Structural Causes

  • Tumors: Benign or malignant tumors in the neck or chest can press on or damage the nerves that control the vocal cords.

  • Thyroid Surgery: Surgery on the thyroid gland, located near the vocal cords, can inadvertently damage the nerves. Infections or Inflammation: Infections or chronic inflammation in the larynx or nearby structures can lead to vocal fold paralysis.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of vocal fold paralysis can vary depending on the extent of paralysis and whether one or both vocal cords are affected. Common symptoms include:  

 

  • Hoarseness

  • Weak Voice

  • Breathing Problems

  • Voice Fatigue

  • Voice Changes

  • Aspiration

Diagnosis

Diagnosing vocal fold paralysis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist). 

 

Diagnostic methods may include:  

  • Laryngoscopy: A flexible or rigid scope is used to directly visualize the vocal cords and assess their movement. 

  • Imaging: X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used to investigate the cause of the paralysis, such as the presence of tumors or structural abnormalities. 

  • Electromyography (EMG): EMG measures electrical activity in the muscles and nerves that control the vocal cords and can help identify nerve damage.

Treatment & Management

Treatment for VFP depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the paralysis. In some cases, no treatment is necessary and the paralysis will resolve on its own. In other cases, treatment may include:

  • Voice therapy: Vocal therapy can teach you how to use your voice in a way that compensates for the paralysis.

  • Medication: Medication may be used to treat any underlying medical conditions that are causing VFP.

  • Surgery: Surgery may be necessary to repair damaged nerves or to reposition the vocal folds.

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