Voice, Swallowing & Airway Conditions We Treat
Conditions That Affect the Voice
Our physicians and therapists treat patients with a host of conditions that affect vocal quality. We employ the most effective treatment options to help you sound like yourself again, including innovative voice rehabilitation techniques that include voice training and speech therapy, and, when necessary, surgery.
Vocal cord nodules are benign lesions on the vocal folds caused by extensive vocal demands or a traumatic injury. Voice therapy is the most common treatment, but some people may need surgery to remove advanced nodules.
Laryngitis refers generally to an inflammation of the larynx. Treatment depends largely on the cause of the inflammation, but may involve a combination of vocal rest, fluid intake, improved vocal hygiene, or voice therapy, as well as medicines to treat the infection.
Laryngopharyngeal reflux, or acid reflux, refers to the backflow of stomach acid into the throat that causes a hoarse voice, chronic throat clearing, the feeling of having a “lump” in your throat, or trouble swallowing.
The treatment of laryngopharyngeal reflux usually involves a combination of approaches, including dietary and behavioral modifications, medications to reduce stomach acid, and surgery to prevent reflux.
Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis
Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis causes lesions, which are similar to warts, to grow on the vocal folds. Surgery to remove these papillomas is the traditional treatment for this condition, but medications and in-office laser treatment can also provide relief. The Voice Center is a leader in research into better understanding recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
Muscle Tension Dysphonia
Muscle tension dysphonia refers to an abnormal pattern of voice use, resulting in the improper use of the muscles of the voice box and often a change to the quality of the voice. Voice therapy is the most common and effective treatment.
Spasmodic or spastic dysphonia is a disorder that causes abnormal speech. The most common and reliable therapy involves the use of Botox®, a medication containing a very small amount of botulinum toxin, to weaken the vocal cords and limit the abnormal contractions.
After its introduction in 1962, Teflon® injections became a popular treatment for paralyzed vocal cords. Unfortunately, the injections caused Teflon® granuloma formations and scarring of the vocal cords.
Completely removing these granulomas is often very difficult. However, at the Voice Center, we specialize in a treatment method that allows a complete removal of Teflon® granulomas as well as reconstruction of the vocal folds.
Vocal Cord Granulomas
Vocal granuloma is a particular type of laryngeal lesion that forms in the back portion of the voice box. People with granulomas may complain of hoarseness, chronic throat clearing, throat pain, a cough that is occasionally blood-tinged, and feel a "lump” in the throat. Treatment includes voice therapy, Botox® injections into the vocal cord, or surgery to remove the lesion.
Vocal Fold Paralysis
Paralysis of one or both vocal folds, also known as vocal cords, can cause hoarseness, vocal fatigue, pain, aspiration, or tightness in the throat when speaking and breathing. Treatment of vocal cord paralysis differs depending on whether the paralysis affects one or both of the vocal folds.
Vocal Cord Polyps
Vocal cord polyps are benign lesions, similar to vocal cord nodules, that can cause hoarseness, constant throat clearing, coughing, and trouble swallowing. Small polyps, often caused by irritants such as tobacco smoke, may respond to smoking cessation alone. Other polyps, particularly those that are large or cause bleeding, often require surgery.
If you’ve started to experience swallowing problems, we encourage you to seek out treatment as soon as possible. Our therapists and physicians may recommend dietary restrictions, repositioning your head when you eat, prescription medications, or surgery to help overcome your swallowing difficulties.
Aspiration is the abnormal entry of food or liquid into the windpipe and subsequently into the lungs. Aspiration may lead to pneumonia or long-term lung complications. Treatment may include dietary changes, adjusting the position of your head when you eat, or swallowing exercises. Some patients may require therapy or surgery to improve their swallowing mechanism.
Zenker's diverticulum is an anatomic abnormality that results in a pouch forming alongside the esophagus. The pouch fills with food or liquid, which can then be regurgitated into the throat, leading to swallowing difficulties or aspiration. Treatment involves surgery to remove the pouch.
Airway and Breathing Conditions
Laryngologists at the Voice Center treat breathing problems by opening the airway to improve respiration.
Subglottic and Tracheal Stenosis
Narrowing of the airway can sometimes be the result of subglottic or tracheal stenosis, conditions that make it difficult to get adequate amounts of air to the lungs. Endoscopic surgical techniques can help open the airway. Your doctor might also recommend a stent, a type of surgical scaffolding, to keep the airway open, or a tracheostomy, which creates an opening through the neck directly to the windpipe.
Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), also referred to as paradoxical vocal fold motion, occurs when the vocal cords do not open and close normally when you breathe. In certain circumstances, a sudden and severe VCD attack requires immediate emergency room treatment.
Symptoms of VCD include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, frequent coughing, loud breathing, and hoarseness. VCD may be caused by a respiratory infection, a strong response to very potent odors, acid reflux, postnasal drip, stress, exercise, or tobacco smoke, particularly second-hand smoke.
Doctors at the Voice Center can perform tests to determine if the VCD is accompanied by asthma or other conditions. We look closely at your vocal cords and may perform a spirometry exam, which is a breathing test that shows how well you breathe and how well your lungs perform. VCD can be difficult to diagnose, so seeking out our care during an attack can help you get the treatment you need.
The treatment for VCD may include respiratory retraining therapy, stress management, and treatment of underlying conditions such as asthma.