Vocal cord paralysis is one of the lesser known, but more common causes of hoarseness. When the nerves traveling to the vocal cords are not functioning properly, the affected vocal cord loses the ability to open, close, or tense up appropriately, and this can have negative impacts on the voice, and in some cases on swallowing and even breathing.Did you know that your vocal cord can get paralyzed? It turns out that vocal cord paralysis is one of the lesser known, but more common causes of hoarseness.
Vocal cord paralysis can make it hard to speak and even breathe. That’s because your vocal cords, also called vocal folds, do more than just produce sound. They also protect your airway by preventing food, drink and even your saliva from entering your windpipe (trachea) and causing you to choke. – Mayo Clinic
What Are Symptoms of Vocal Cord Paralysis?
The most common symptom of vocal cord paralysis is a breathy, soft, or rough voice with inability to speak loudly, and running out of breath when talking. In rare cases, both vocal cords are paralyzed (known as bilateral vocal cord paralysis)–this is a very serious condition which causes difficulty breathing, since neither vocal cord can open sufficiently.
There are three main causes of vocal cord paralysis:
- Nerve injury during surgery around the neck, lungs, heart, or esophagus
- Direct compression of a nerve in the neck or chest due to a growth such as a tumor
- Spontaneously on its own without any known cause (we think this is due to a virus that infects the nerve and causes it to swell).
Vocal cord paralysis can be temporary, or it can be permanent. When it first happens, it’s sometimes not possible to know whether it is temporary or permanent, which can be understandably stressful to the person experiencing it. Luckily, there are several treatments available that can significantly improve the voice, regardless of whether the paralysis is temporary or permanent.
Vocal Cord Paralysis
Common treatments for vocal cord paralysis include vocal cord filler injections to temporarily bulk up and reposition the vocal cords, permanent vocal cord repositioning procedures (such as type 1 thyroplasty/medialization laryngoplasty and arytenoid adduction), and reinnervation procedures where a functioning nerve is attached to the injured nerve to allow for nerve regrowth to occur. Voice therapy is often a useful part of treatment as well.
Finding the Right Specialist
As a fellowship-trained laryngologist, Dr. Rafii has extensive experience in the care of vocal cord paralysis, and has expertise in the most up to date and state of the art techniques available, including filler injections (injection laryngoplasty), medialization laryngoplasty (type 1 thyroplasty), arytenoid adduction, and vocal cord reinnervation. Dr. Rafii has special expertise in performing awake, in-office vocal cord filler injections, which can be done as a quick and simple procedure on the SAME DAY as your consultation in order to help get your voice back as quickly as possible. If you have been diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis, or you have hoarseness of unknown cause, call or message us today for a Comprehensive Voice Evaluation with Dr. Rafii.