If you are experiencing a hoarse, raspy, breathy, or weak voice that does not improve after more than one week, or occurs following a surgical procedure, or is associated with difficulty swallowing or running out of breath when speaking, you may have vocal cord paralysis. The compassionate board-certified doctors at Beach Cities ENTS in Torrance, California, determine if you have vocal cord paralysis and begin treatment to prevent serious complications from developing. If you have voice problems or have been diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis, call the South Bay area office or schedule an appointment online today.
Vocal cord paralysis occurs when one or both of your vocal cords fail to open or close properly. Normally, the vocal cords are closed when you swallow, open when you breathe, and close and vibrate when you use your voice. Vocal cord paralysis typically affects only one of the vocal cords, but, in rare cases, may occur in both vocal cords.
Vocal cord paralysis occurs when one of several nerves responsible for opening, closing, and adjusting the tension in your vocal cords suffer damage, and can no longer transmit a signal to the muscles controlling your vocal cords.
The nerves may become damaged due to inflammation from a viral infection, an injury during surgery in the neck or chest, direct pressure on the nerve from cancerous and noncancerous tumors, auto-immune diseases, strokes, and other neurological conditions.
However, in half of all patients diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis, the reason for their nerve damage can’t be determined.
Depending on the cause of vocal cord paralysis, the condition may be temporary or permanent. In some cases, the condition may resolve after several weeks to months. If the vocal cord shows no signs of movement for more than 6-12 months, it usually means that the vocal cord paralysis is permanent. In both cases, your Beach Cities ENTS doctor can provide expert state-of-the-art care to help you get your voice back.
The symptoms of vocal cord paralysis fall into three broad categories:
Your voice changes, becoming rough, raspy, or breathy. You may feel like you can only get a few words out before having to take a breath.
Many patients feel short of breath when speaking or when they get active. Additionally, your breathing may sound noisy. In rare cases, especially when both vocal cords are affected, vocal cord paralysis may make it very difficult to breathe.
Food may stick in your throat, or you may choke or cough when swallowing food or beverages. People with vocal cord paralysis cannot close their vocal cords all the way when swallowing, so food and liquids can get into the air passages and lungs more easily, causing serious health problems.
Your doctor at Beach Cities ENTS diagnoses vocal cord paralysis by taking a detailed history and performing an ear nose and throat exam, followed by a simple procedure in the office called flexible laryngoscopy or high resolution video stroboscopy.
A detailed evaluation of the voice itself is also done to customize the best treatment for you.
There are three primary types of treatments for vocal cord paralysis:
Voice therapy may improve your vocal cord function well enough to avoid or delay the need for a procedure or surgery. In most cases of vocal cord paralysis, however, a procedure or surgical treatment may be recommended.
The most common treatment for vocal cord paralysis is injection of a filler material into the paralyzed vocal cord. This highly specialized procedure temporarily moves the vocal cord into a better position which allows it to contact the healthy vocal cord and produce a strong voice again. In the past, vocal cord injections were traditionally done in the operating room under general anesthesia. However, the doctors at Beach Cities ENTS offer expert level care and are specially trained in performing awake vocal cord injections in the office. These in-office injections require virtually no down-time and require little to no preparation.
Vocal cord injections, also known as injection laryngoplasty or injection augmentation, are a great option for short term treatment of vocal cord paralysis.
If your vocal cord paralysis does not recover within 6-12 months, your doctor at Beach Cities ENTS may recommend a surgical procedure for long-term improvement in your voice, including structural implants (type 1 thyroplasty or medialization laryngoplasty), vocal cord repositioning (arytenoid adduction), or reinnervation.
If you develop voice changes lasting more than one week or following a surgical procedure, or have been diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis, call Beach Cities ENTS or schedule an appointment online today.