Vocal cords, also called vocal folds, play an important role in how we produce sounds. First there must be air in your lungs, which occurs through the act of inhaling. The air is then pushed through the lungs into your windpipe. At the top of the windpipe sit your vocal cords, which stay open when breathing and close when you produce sound. As the air gets pushed out of the windpipe, it passes between the vocal cords, causing them to vibrate. This vibration sounds like buzzing. This sound is passed through the throat, nose and mouth, which all work together to change the buzzing into speech.
Vocal abuse, which occurs when you use your voice too much or incorrectly, can cause soft swollen spots to form on the vocal cords. Slowly these spots can develop into hard growths called nodules. If left untreated, the nodules will continue to grow larger and stiffen. Polyps are created in the same way, except instead of forming hard growths they are blister-like and can grow faster and larger.
A vocal cord cyst is a firm mass of tissue contained within a membrane. Much like vocal cord polyps and nodules, the size and location of the cysts will directly affect the severity of your hoarseness or other voice problem.
These growths can cause hoarseness and a lump-in-the-throat sensation. In order to diagnose a growth on the vocal cord, your doctor will review your medical history and complete a full physical exam, including a voice evaluation. An endoscope may be used to get a closer look at the vocal cords. This procedure involves inserting a thin lighted instrument down your nose or throat.
Treatment for these growths depends on their size and age. Large or old growths may be removed surgically. Behavioral intervention, specifically learning good vocal hygiene in order to prevent additional vocal abuse, is usually recommended for newer and smaller growths.
Contact Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat for more information or to schedule an appointment.