What are vocal cord disorders?

The vocal cords (also known as vocal folds) are two bands of smooth muscle tissue found in the larynx (voice box). The larynx is the neck at the top of the trachea (windpipe). The vocal cords vibrate and air passes through the cords from the lungs to produce the sound of your voice. The sound is then sent through the throat, nose, and mouth, giving the sound "resonance." The sound of each person's voice is determined by the size and shape of the vocal cords and the size and shape of the throat, nose, and mouth.

Vocal cord disorders are often caused by vocal abuse or misuse. This includes excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, coughing or yelling. Smoking and inhaling irritants are also considered vocal abuse.

Disorders caused by misuse and abuse are easily preventable. Find out how you can protect your voice.

Symptoms vary, based on the type of vocal cord disorder. They include changes in your normal voice such as: a raspy or hoarse voice; or, a hoarse, low, and breathy voice. Vocal cord paralysis may also cause trouble swallowing and coughing.

Read more about some of the more common vocal cord disorders.

Treatment may include any of the following:

  • Resting the voice
  • Stopping the behavior that caused the vocal cord disorder
  • A referral to a speech-language pathologist who specializes in treating voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorders
  • Medication
  • Surgery to remove growths