Vocal cords consist of two elastic muscles by the side of larynx and like any other muscle or tissue in our body could suffer from strain or damage.
Singers, teachers, lawyers and actors have increased risk of strained vocal cords, as well as the people who work at airports or racing tracks.
The most common vocal cords illnesses are vocal cords nodules sometimes called teachers’ or singers’ nodules. Exposure to cigarette smoke or chemicals might induce vocal cord polyps. In these conditions the voice changes becomes rough and breathy, and some singers lose their vocal range. The nodules usually last 6 to 12 weeks with the proper voice training with the specialist, but most of the polyps should be surgically removed.
Laryngitis is the swelling of the cords, usually because of the infection or inflammation. Suffering from laryngitis, your voice might be changed or in serious cases you could totally lose the possibility to speak (just temporarily, while the infection lasts). It may last for a couple days, or in viral infection, it last up to three weeks.
Contact ulcers are rare, common for people who work in noisy surrounding or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) and heartburn patients. Their voice is rough, tires often and the throat is painful. The recovery is slow – 6 weeks of rest are necessary for ulcers to heal.
Vocal cord paresis appears when there’s a problem with the opening and closing of one of the cords, and it usually results in changed voice. When one or both of the cords do not move the condition is called vocal cord paralysis. Causes of vocal cord paresis and paralysis include viral infections, weak vocal cord muscles, neck or chest surgery or injury, trauma during birth, stroke or tumor. Sometimes, patients suffering from Parkinson’s, myasthenia gravis or MS (multiple sclerosis) are also susceptive to these vocal cord conditions. Changes in your voice are present with this condition and paralyzed cords may bring discomfort and some breathing problems. The voice could come back in a year, but sometimes the voice loss is permanent.
Men after 60 have increased risk of vocal cord tumors. Malignant (cancerous) tumors appear more in smokers and alcoholics and if they’re caught in early stages, the prognosis is usually good. Tumors usually roughen your voice and sometime they might affect the breathing and swallowing. Benign tumors must be surgically removed and cancerous tumors should be treated instantly, because of the possible fatal consequences.
To get the proper diagnosis, doctor will ask about your medical history, listen to your voice and examine your vocal cords with a small mirror or laryngoscope. You’d be asked to speak while the procedure is ongoing, enabling the doctor to see your vocal cords active. In some cases, acoustic analysis is required. If suspected to have cancerous growth, the doctor will recommend a biopsy and sometimes additional tests to diagnose the proper cause of the vocal cords condition.