Vocal cord dysfunction means that the vocal cords partially close during breathing,
so air has more trouble getting through. The vocal cords are two pieces of tissue
stretched across the voice box. They vibrate to make sound when a person speaks.
Vocal cord dysfunction is also called paradoxical vocal laryngeal dysfunction or
paradoxical vocal fold movement.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
A child with vocal cord dysfunction may:
have trouble breathing, especially when breathing in (inhaling or getting air
in). This can be scary and need medical care.
cough or clear the throat
wheeze or make raspy sounds during breathing
be hoarse or have other voice changes
have chest pain or throat tightness
The symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction almost never happen while a child is sleeping.
What Causes Vocal Cord Dysfunction?
Children with vocal cord dysfunction have "triggers." These are things or situations
that they're very sensitive to. The trigger makes the vocal cords partially close,
which causes breathing problems.
to see the vocal cords using a tiny camera on the end of a thin tube
a challenge test: to make symptoms happen while the doctor looks
at the vocal cords. To start symptoms, the child may run on a treadmill, ride a bike,
or take a special medicine.
The symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction and asthma
can be similar. So doctors will check to see if a child has vocal cord dysfunction,
asthma, or both.
Vocal cord dysfunction is the most likely cause when:
The breathing trouble happens during exercise. (In exercise-related
asthma, symptoms tend to happen soon after exercise.)
The doctor hears wheezing sounds coming from the child's neck when listening with
a stethoscope. (In asthma, the wheezing sounds come from the chest.)
Medicines that usually work well for treating asthma do not help the child's breathing.
How Is Vocal Cord Dysfunction Treated?
Vocal cord dysfunction is treated by an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT, also
called an otolaryngologist), a pulmonologist, and a speech
therapist. They work together to help the child learn to relax the vocal cords
Treatment for vocal cord dysfunction may also include:
practicing breathing exercises
avoiding irritating fumes or dust
staying hydrated to help the vocal cords work well
The doctor may recommend medicines to treat allergies or acid reflux if they make
the vocal cord dysfunction worse.
If stress plays a
role, the ENT doctor may ask a psychiatrist or psychologist to join the treatment
team. They can help the child understand the cause of the stress and learn the best
way to handle it.
With practice, most kids with vocal cord dysfunction can learn to avoid triggers,
relax the vocal cords, and manage stress to help ease or stop symptoms. Sometimes
symptoms come back and the health care team will start treatment again or use a different