When we speak, air passes from the lungs through the vocal cords, which are two bands of muscle tissue within the larynx, causing them to vibrate. This vibration produces sound. Anything that causes difficulty in producing sound naturally and comfortably is a voice disorder that can be medically treated.
Two common signs of vocal cord damage are nodules and polyps. Nodules are benign growths on the vocal cords. Voice misuse causes the vocal cords to swell, and over time the swollen areas can become stiff like calluses. Polyps can occur on one or both vocal cords and can appear as swelling, a blister or a long, thin growth. Most polyps are larger than nodules.
Signs of Vocal Cord Nodules & Polyps
There are similar signs and symptoms for both vocal cord nodules and polyps. Most people experience a combination of:
- Harsh, scratchy voice
- Pain from ear to ear
- Lump in the throat sensation
- Neck pain
- Difficulty changing pitch
- Voice and body fatigue
Causes of Vocal Cord Nodules & Polyps
Both nodules and polyps are caused by damage to the vocal cords, in most cases vocal abuse. Nodules tend to be caused by long-term vocal abuse, like for professional singers, while polyps are often caused by one-time vocal abuse, like screaming at a concert. Other conditions that lead to voice problems include:
- Tense muscles
- Drinking alcohol & caffeine
Treatment for Vocal Cord Nodules & Polyps
Treatment depends on a variety of factors, including the underlying cause, size and symptoms.
The first step is to address the medical cause of the voice problem. For example, if reflux, allergies or thyroid problems are to blame, they must be treated in order for the nodules or polyps to go away. Counseling may be recommended to help you quit smoking or control stress.
If you’re practicing poor vocal hygiene – i.e., misusing your voice – your doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP). An SLP can give you the tools to learn what vocal abuse is and how to stop it.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to remove nodules or polyps.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Pinnacle ENT Associates today.