5 Serious Conditions That Could Compromise Your Voice
Your larynx or voice box is located near the base of your tongue at the back of your throat. This organ is made up of mucous membranes, muscles, and cartilage. When air moves through it, your vocal cords vibrate, producing sound. A healthy voice box allows you to speak, sing, yell, and more. However, if your cords become paralyzed, inflamed, or develop growths, you may experience voice problems. Voice disorders can affect the tone, volume, and pitch of your voice. A voice specialist like Dr. Matthew W. Shawl can identify the problem and help protect or restore your voice. But before that, it helps to know the most common voice issues you may experience.
Vocal Cord Paralysis or Paresis
Vocal cord paresis (partial paralysis) and paralysis are usually caused by nerve damage in the voice box. This damage can result from trauma incurred during larynx surgery, chest and neck injuries, or strokes. Usually, it affects one or both vocal cords and can make your breathing labored and noisy. It can also make your voice weak and breathy, especially if your vocal cords are paralyzed in an open position. Vocal cord paralysis can improve over time unless the condition is permanent, in which case you may require voice therapy and surgery to restore your voice.
Laryngitis refers to the inflammation of the voice box. It is usually caused by vocal strain from singing, yelling, or shouting or a viral infection. When you have laryngitis, your voice may sound hoarse or may disappear altogether. Acute cases usually develop suddenly but resolve within a few weeks. Your doctor may recommend that you drink lots of fluids and rest your voice. However, if laryngitis persists, you may have a chronic case that requires a more invasive approach.
Your vocal cords can develop benign or cancerous growths like nodules, cysts, and polyps. These growths can grow over time, leading to paralysis, inflammation, and difficulty speaking. If the growths are nodes, they may appear in the middle of your vocal cords, making your throat scratchy. Polyps tend to affect one or both vocal cords. Usually, they affect people who use their voices a lot, like teachers, singers, and motivational speakers.
As the name suggests, spasmodic dysphonia causes involuntary spasms in the vocal cords. This neurological disorder can lead to voice straining, cracking, or breaking. Essentially, it can make your voice sound hoarse, jerky, quivery, or tight. This can happen in episodes interspersed with periods of a normal-sounding voice and sessions during which you cannot speak at all. To treat spasmodic dysphonia, specialists often inject botulinum toxin into the vocal cords and provide speech therapy.
Acid reflux, a common gastrointestinal problem, can cause your vocal cords to be inflamed. This can lead to open sores or ulcers in your voice box and the deterioration of the larynx’s mucous membranes. Without this membrane, your throat may feel scratchy and painful, making talking difficult.
Discuss Voice Problems with a Specialist Immediately
Voice disorders are often caused by overusing your voice but can result from other problems like inflammation. Whatever the cause, they can affect your ability to sing or speak well. This can be especially troublesome if you use your voice regularly or for work, such as if you are a musician, actor, poet, or teacher. An otolaryngologist can usually address the problem through voice therapy and other conservative treatments. If this does not work, you may need surgery. To learn more, contact a voice specialist to discuss any voice issues you may be experiencing.