Vocal Cord Masses & Paralysis

Nodules grow like calluses on the vocal folds following vocally abusive behaviors. Nodules can cause hoarseness, breathiness, loss of range and vocal fatigue. Nodules are almost always treated without surgical intervention. Voice therapy is the most common form of treatment and is effective in most patients. Correct diagnosis is essential as nodules are often mistaken for other kinds of lesions on the vocal cords, but treatment is different depending on the condition.

Polyps are most often found in the middle of the vocal fold and are usually caused by severe vocal trauma, such as yelling loudly, chronic voice abuse, vocal cord hemorrhage or chronic cough.

These benign masses usually only develop on one vocal fold and are typically superficial. Polyps often resolve with conservative therapy but sometimes require surgery.

Vascular lesions are masses in the vocal folds due to abnormal blood vessels. Vascular lesions cause hoarseness, inflammation, polyp or scarring. They are treated voice therapy, medication, laser photoablation and/or microlaryngeal surgery, depending upon the condition.

Vocal Chord Paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis results from a malfunction in one or both of the vocal cords. When a vocal cord does not open or close properly, the airway is left open, which can allow food or liquids to slip through. This common condition causes difficulty swallowing or breathing, as well as coughing, and often occurs after neck or throat surgery.

The cause of vocal cord paralysis is often not known, but some patients may develop this condition as a result of:

  • Inflammation
  • Neck or chest injury
  • Stroke
  • Tumors
  • Viral infection
  • Vocal cord injury

Paralysis can cause a hoarse, breathy or weak voice, coughing, difficulty breathing and difficulty speaking loudly. If both vocal cords are affected, symptoms may be severe.

Vocal cord paralysis is often diagnosed with a physical examination and a series of diagnostic tests such as an endoscopy, laryngeal or blood tests. Treatment for vocal cord paralysis ranges from voice therapy or surgery.