What is vocal cord paralysis?
Vocal cord paralysis is a health condition where a person cannot control the movement of the muscles responsible for controlling the voice.
This health condition can make it difficult for a person to speak or, in worst cases, even breathe.
Vocal cord paralysis, also called vocal fold paralysis, can affect how the vocal cords work.
The inability of a person to control these muscles is often a side-effect of nerve damage.
During this health condition, mostly only one vocal cord doesn’t work properly. In some cases, this condition affects both the vocal cords.
Vocal cord paralysis can cause severe problems if left untreated, as breathing problems can occur.
Is vocal cord paralysis a common health condition?
Single vocal cord paralysis is more common than double vocal cord paralysis. As the name suggests, single vocal cord paralysis is when only one vocal cord is affected, and double vocal cord paralysis is when both vocal cords are affected.
This health condition does not discriminate in affecting men or women. However, it is most likely to be found in women than men.
What are the symptoms of vocal cord paralysis?
The symptoms of vocal cord paralysis can range from mild to severe; without proper treatment, it can be chronic.
Some of the symptoms of vocal cord paralysis include
- Disturbed or squeaky voice
- Noisy breathing
- Vocal pitch loss
- Coughing while swallowing food
- Inability to speak loudly
- Minimal gag reflux and
- Frequent throat clearing
What can cause vocal cord paralysis?
Vocal cord paralysis is caused if the voice box is disrupted. A disrupted voice box can damage the muscles. Despite not knowing what the exact cause of vocal cord paralysis is, some of the possible causes include
Injury to the vocal cord
Injury to the vocal cord can happen during surgery which can result in damage to the nerves that are present in the voice box.
A neck injury can damage the nerves that are present in the vocal cords. The nerves play an important role in the body, and any damage to them can leave a severe impact.
When a person has a stroke, it interacts with the blood flow in the brain and can cause damage to the part that sends signals to the voice box.
Tumours can be cancerous or non-cancerous that can grow around the muscles or nerves that control the function of the larynx, causing vocal cord paralysis.
Infections caused by various pathogens can cause diseases that can result in inflammation and directly damage the nerves causing paralysis in the vocal cord.
Neurological health conditions
Some neurological health conditions like sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease can damage the nerves and lead to vocal cord paralysis.
Some of the other risk factors that can cause vocal cord paralysis is undergoing surgery, specifically in the throat or chest and having a neurological condition.
How is vocal cord paralysis diagnosed?
A doctor or a healthcare provider will question the patient regarding their symptoms and lifestyle, and also listen to their voice and determine the problem.
This procedure is done when a doctor looks at the vocal cords with the help of a mirror or a thin tube known as an endoscope. This helps the doctor get insights as it contains a special camera that is present at the tip connecting the tube and giving a view of the vocal cord.
Stroboscopy is a procedure performed to evaluate the vibration of the vocal cords. It assesses the movement of the vocal folds during sound production and produces a clear picture that is interpreted by the physician.
Performing this test helps the doctor measure the electrical currents present in the voice box muscles with the help of small needles inserted into the vocal cord muscles through the neck of the skin.
This test is used to determine how well a person can recover.
A blood test or scan
A blood test can give a health care provider the necessary details of various infections or diseases present in the body.
How is vocal cord paralysis treated?
Indication for Treatment : To improve your ability to speak and to swallow/prevent airway compromise (difficulty breathing/aspiration / choking )
Treatment : Treatment of vocal cord paralysis depends on the cause, the severity of symptoms, and the time from the onset of symptoms.
Treatment may include Surgery: Bulk injection (fat, collagen /teflon or some filler into the vocal cord) Phono surgery (vocal cord repositioning)
The Vocal cord paralysis symptoms will not recover fully on their own. Sometimes surgical treatments are prescribed to improve a person’s ability to speak.
Sometimes during surgery, a vocal cord injection is injected to help treat the paralysis.
Laryngeal framework surgery is performed on a person to insert a voice box. The voice box helps to replace the damaged muscles and ease the symptoms of a person.
- neuromuscular electrical stimulation
- Laryngeal Reinnervation- Recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) reinnervation is a surgical option that helps manage hoarseness due to a one-sided vocal cord paralysis or immobility.
How to cope with vocal cord paralysis?
Vocal cord paralysis is a frustrating health condition that can affect a person’s everyday life. This condition can make it difficult for a person to communicate with other people.
A speech therapist can help a person develop the skills to improve communication.
In addition to speech therapy, preventing damage to vocal cords is essential, and therefore it is better to consult a health care provider for appropriate treatment.
Ignoring the symptoms and being untreated for a long time can be life-threatening as this health condition can cause breathlessness.
To sum up
Vocal cord paralysis is a condition where a person cannot control the movement of the muscles in the larynx.
This health condition happens when there is nerve impulse disturbance. It causes difficulty in speaking and breathing.
There are various causes of vocal cord paralysis, and the treatment for it depends upon the cause.
If the symptoms of vocal cord paralysis are prevalent for a long time and interrupts the day-to-day functioning of the person, it is important to visit a doctor for immediate treatment.
What causes vocal cord paralysis?
Some of the common causes of vocal cord paralysis include nerve damage occurring during surgery, viral infections or certain types of cancer.
How is vocal cord paralysis diagnostic?
A doctor or a healthcare provider examines the vocal cord using a mirror or a thin tube called an endoscope that can help identify various causes of vocal cord paralysis.
What research is being done on vocal cord paralysis?
Various institutions explore various causes of vocal cord paralysis and identify better ways to treat the disorder. Improved surgical methods or other electric impulse treatments are under research to return a person’s voice quality.
How long does it take for a paralysed vocal cord to heal?
After treatment, it can take a person up to 6 or 9 months before the quality of voice improves. The time for recovery can vary depending on the individual.
Can you recover from vocal cord paralysis?
Treating vocal cord paralysis depends on the cause and how severe the symptoms are. Based on the treatment or therapy, a person can get better with some time.
Can you talk without vocal cords?
Without proper functioning vocal cords, a person cannot speak in a normal way and can be very difficult to cope with.
Can acid reflux cause vocal cord paralysis?
Some voice disturbing symptoms can occur when there is reflux, but excessive reflux can cause enough inflammation that can damage the vocal cords, thus affecting the voice of a person.
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