vocalcorddysfunctions

Vocal cord dysfunctions information

Vocal Cord Dysfunctions (VCD)

What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

With vocal cord dysfunction your vocal cords don’t work properly and this can affect your breathing system because the vocal cords close over, or narrow at the wrong time when breathing, making it harder to get air into your lungs. It is often misdiagnosed as exercise-induced asthma and it is easy to confuse it with that because both conditions have similar symptoms. Vocal cord dysfunction can occur at any age but happens more commonly in teenagers and young adults. It is a serious disorder because your vocal cords are not functioning properly on the in-breath (inspiration). People with asthma may also have vocal cord dysfunction when breathing in. When you breathe in, your vocal cords ought to be wide open to allow air to flow to your lungs, but instead they are closed or partially closed. It is thought that maybe 1 in 20 of severe asthma sufferers may also have VCD and as much as 40 % of those thought to suffer from asthma may actually have VCD, although this may be in combination with asthma.

Diagram of the airways to show position of the vocal cords in vocal cord dysfunction

Diagram of Human airways showing the throat and vocal cords


What are the vocal cords?

The vocal cords are what help us to speak. They are tough bands of sinew that vibrate to make noise and this vibration is what allows us to talk and sing. These folds of tissue stretch across your voice box and relax during normal breathing, letting air pass through the trachea (air tube). Vocal cords can be damaged just from dryness, which is why singers always ensure they are well hydrated. While breathing, (exhaling or inhaling) the vocal cords remain apart but they close and vibrate over the airway to make sound when you are talking. In people with VCD, the vocal cords close over the airway just with breathing, making it extremely difficult to get a breath. In other words, the vocal cords are closed when they should be open.

Watch the Vocal Cords working

Is it the same as Asthma?

Because the symptoms of VCD are similar to those for asthma, that is, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath, vocal cord dysfunction can be misdiagnosed as asthma. Just as with asthma, symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction can be triggered by exercise, by breathing in irritants, such as smoke or fumes or by having a cold. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways and is commonly associated with symptoms of chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing and/or wheezing and the symptoms can change over time. It affects about 17 to 20 million Americans and is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. It is the most common cause of childhood ER visits and is related to a number of factors, including family history, smoking, stress and allergies.

Asthma is a reversible airway disease and can be chronic or intermittent. It is characterized by variable and reversible airway obstruction and inflammation of the airways. It is a problem that occurs on expiration (breathing out) caused by a narrowing of the airways and an increase of airway resistance. It is a diagnosis that often is given to those with VCD and can co-exist in some patients.

How can you tell the difference?

Vocal cord dysfunction does not respond to asthma treatment, even though the symptoms may be similar to those of asthma. It may coexist with asthma and can make asthma look worse than it is. Vocal cord dysfunction does not respond to inhaler treatment.

What are the symptoms of VCD?

In children, vocal cord dysfunction is often seen in competitive athletes and can lead to a need for oxygen after finishing exercise. It can mimic exercised-induced asthma because both conditions have similar symptoms. A sudden attack may need emergency room treatment. At its worst, it may lead to a spasm in the larynx (voice box) – laryngospasm . The common signs are:

* Shortness of breath or feeling that it’s hard to get air in and out
* Frequent coughing or throat clearing, or feeling that you are choking
* Noisy breathing, with a raspy or wheezing sound and hoarse voice

Unlike snoring, it does not usually happen when you are sleeping.

What causes VCD?

There are a lot of possible causes but often, no cause in particular is found. An attack can be caused by exercise, or by having a cold, or by tobacco smoke, strong smells or fumes. It can also be caused by acid reflux (GERD) or by stress. The muscles of the vocal cords can weaken over time as we age, so it may also appear in older people.

How do I know if I have VCD?

Vocal cord dysfunction can be hard to detect, often because people are just assumed to have asthma when they wheeze. The triggers for asthma and VCD are very similar and there is no specific test for either asthma or VCD. But it should be suspected when you have breathing problems, or are short of breath, and asthma medication does not work.

When people have had an exercise induced cough and wheezing after exercise, it has often been assumed in the past that they had asthma. There is no good diagnostic test for asthma, with the presence of a cough and wheeze generally having been considered to be sufficient diagnosis. The vocal cords may show decreased movement. They can usually be seen using a mirror placed at the back of the tongue. The Royal Brompton Hospital in London is investigating VCD with the use of a small camera that watches the vocal cords while you do exercise. The tiny camera is threaded up your nose after the area has been numbed with local anaesthetic. It sits at the top of your nose and looks down on the vocal cords and provides a picture of them while you are speaking and exercising. As VCD often occurs during or after exercise, the patient is sat on a stationary bike and asked to pedal. The vocal cords are observed while the person works quite hard and also when they speak. The cough and wheeze do not respond to asthma medications.

Very often, someone with VCD will wheeze when they breathe IN, whereas those with asthma may wheeze when they breathe OUT. It is possible to suffer from both asthma and VCD.

What is the treatment?

Treating underlying conditions that might be triggering your vocal cord dysfunction can help reduce symptoms but voice therapy is recommended to help ensure easier breathing and better breath control. Techniques to control breathing and calm down spasms of the vocal cords are the mainstay of treatment. In addition, visual imaging techniques are taught as a method of keeping the vocal cords open during rapid breathing. Asthma treatment mainly consists of inhalers, whereas VCD treatment is a form of physiotherapy which teaches breathing control. Often 3 or 4 sessions are booked but the sufferer may well find they can control their breathing well even after just the first session. If you have VCD, it is important to know this, as the use of the blue inhaler often provided to asthma sufferers can actually make the airways respond less well over time in those who do not have asthma.

Speech-Language Pathology: The Vocal Cords in Action

melvil [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

These are a person’s vocal cords. If you want to see what “normal” vocal cords look like in action, watch the short video below. The person whose vocal cords are shown working is a professionally trained singer.

The previous video did not include the sounds the person was making, just a video of the movements. The next video includes sounds at different pitches and different words and shows how the vocal cords work to make those sounds.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction Breathing and Exercise Videos

What Is Vocal Cord Dysfunction

When you breathe, the  vocal cords in your voice box open as you breathe in and then close over, though not fully, while you breathe out. When you speak or sing, the vocal cords vibrate to make a noise.

If it is suspected that you have VCD, you may be given a breathing test, called spirometry that looks at how air moves in and out of your lungs. Unfortunately if your suspected VCD is not active when you go for testing, your results may be normal so it can be difficult to check whether you actually have VCD.

In this case, it is possible to trigger an attack, so the cords can be watched. This can be done using an irritant or an exercise stress test, so the vocal cords can be watched in the VCD situation. The classic form of VCD shows that the vocal cords move towards each other when you breathe IN (instead of opening fully) leaving a small triangular hole for air to move through.  This is the opposite of what happens with people who have asthma, where the vocal cords close over on breathing OUT and they do not show the triangular shaped hole. VCD can often be mistaken  for asthma, which is the most common chronic illness among children.

The big difference between vocal cord dysfunction and asthma is that VCD causes more difficulty breathing in than breathing out and the opposite for asthma. It is possible to suffer from both.

Voice Therapy

It is possible to improve VCD by the use of voice therapy. This can include singing exercises. You should consult your voice therapist for exercises that will suit your condition. Many people use voice exercises from singing to help train and improve their vocal cord functions.

Singing is a great way to express yourself. You can stand or sit right where you are and sing. It is a way to communicate, creatively and effectively. Singers who want to extend their range or improve their voice, take lessons and practice various exercises. Many of these can also help improve VCD.

For some people, exercise of any sort may mean losing some sleep but for opera singers, for instance, physical fitness, as well as voice fitness is essential to their performance. Using some of these exercises may help but it will depend on the reason, (if any) nature and extent of your VCD  as to how much your voice will improve.

If you decide to practice singing, consult your voice therapist and they may advise you to keep any practice sessions to an hour or less to prevent injury to your vocal chords. You may even need to start out with ten minute sessions to build up your vocal cords. If you feel pain when practising singing exercises, consult your voice therapist.

Relaxation

Managing VCD generally involves using several techniques, such as speech therapy with emphasis on vocal cord relaxation and breathing techniques. Speech therapists can prescribe special exercises to help you be more aware of abdominal breathing and learn to relax your throat muscles. This can give you more control over your throat and breathing. The exercises should be practised when you have no symptoms, so you already know how to use them when you need to during a VCD bout. These exercises will help you improve your vocal cord movements and also improve airflow to the lungs.

Vocal Exercises

Warm up your voice first. There are many different types of good singing exercises that can be use to warm up the voice. If you are doing this to improve VCD, consult your therapist first.

Is VCD An Allergic Response

VCD and Asthma Symptoms

With Vocal Cord Dysfunction, sufferers may have a cough and wheezing and difficulty in breathing; and they may feel they have a tightness in their throat or they may find their voice goes hoarse. These symptoms are very similar to those of asthma and both can be triggered by such things as colds or viruses, breathing in lung irritants, such as smoke or even exercising. Reflux from the stomach (GERD) can also be a trigger.

An Allergy Or Not?

Unlike asthma, however, VCD is NOT an allergy nor an allergic response and the treatments for both are very different. They are also different in that asthma sufferers have more difficulty breathing out than in, whereas VCD suffers have more difficulty on the in breath. Also, the allergic response of asthma means the bronchial tubes constrict (tighten), whereas it is the muscles in the vocal cords that tighten with VCD. VCD can also result from paralysis of one (unilateral paralysis) or both (bilateral paralysis) of the vocal cords.

https://www.vocalcorddysfunctions.com/

It is possible to suffer from both simultaneously and in this case, it’s important to see a specialist who has experience with these types of complex situations.

Treatment for the allergic type reactions in Asthma may include the use of an inhaler to expand (dilate) the bronchial tubes, whereas treatment for VCD may include relaxation techniques and muscle control exercises for the throat muscles.

Vocal Cord Exercises

Vocal cords, or vocal folds as they are more properly known, are what allow us to control the sounds that come out of our mouths. For professional singers, vocal cords need to be maintained in top condition so that they can perfectly control the pitch of their voice while performing. Like any muscle group, practice can help strengthen the control of your vocal cords. There are a wide variety of vocal cord exercises that can be done to improve your voice or help you recover from vocal cord dysfunction or injury.

The first exercise starts with a yawn. You need to open your mouth as wide as possible. By stretching your arms out, the movement will become more natural in some people. When you have finished exhaling, bring the tip of your tongue to the bottom of your mouth and take in a deep breath. On exhaling the second time you want to make the “ahhhh” sound as if you are letting go a sigh for about four seconds. The sound should come from deep within the throat, and you need to be careful to continue to make the sound throughout the exhale.

This process should be repeated at least ten times. The sounds should be done as softly as possible. It is much more important that you pay attention to the sound itself, rather than trying to strive for a loud volume. When the exercise is finished, the throat should feel very open.

The next exercise exercise starts with a deep breath taken in from your belly. This time on the exhale you will make the “oo…” sound like in stool. You should also form an “O” with your lips when exhaling the sound out. Again, the emphasis here is on form and not volume. The sound should be as low as possible. Make the sound for approximately 10 seconds.

Next, relax the cheeks and breath in through your mouth and nose. The breath should be intense enough to slightly press out the cheeks. If done correctly, you will notice the vibration in your lips. Once the breath is taken in, make the “oo” sounds again as in the first step. Repeat this exercise ten times.

The next exercise is slightly different from the last one. Again, you will begin with a deep abdominal breath. This time when blowing out you want to keep your lips together, protruding slightly from your mouth. The cheeks and lips should be relaxed as much as possible. From this position, you will make the “brrrr” sound as if you are freezing cold. You should feel the rapid vibration of the sound against your lips. Take in a deep breath as before and then repeat. Do this exercise ten separate times.

The next exercise will work within a larger range of sound. You want to start with the lowest pitched sound that you can make with your voice, and gradually work your way to the highest pitched sound that you can make. The sound you will be making this time while changing pitch is “whoop-puh” with most of the emphasis on the “whoop” while scaling up the pitch. Again, the sound should be soft with an emphasis on precise form. Ideally there should be no pause in the voice as one climbs up towards a higher pitch.

Repeat the previous exercise ten different times. When finished, reverse the process. This time you want to start with a high pitch and work down to the lowest pitch. Say the word “boom” this time. This should also be completed ten times with an emphasis in keeping the sound continuous, as before.

The above exercises help you to gain better control of your voice, and are especially good for singers. However, if your vocal cords ever become physically injured you might need some additional exercises to help to restore the function.

One of the best ways of strengthening weakened vocal cords is to repeat words starting with vowels (such as “Easter”, “old”, and “air”) over and over. Repeating “Ah, Ah, Ah” ten times in a row, putting a hard emphasis on the first word can help to strengthen your vocal cords. In addition, saying “Ah” once with a sharp voice as well as a very prolonged “Ah….” for about 10 seconds will also help. Ideally each of these exercises should be done ten times in a row for three times per day if suffering from weakened vocal cords.

Learning to relax the throat is also important to recover from some vocal cord injuries. This is particularly important for people who have conditions such as vocal cord dysfunction where the cords tighten up on an inward breath, mimicking the symptoms of asthma.

To practice relaxing the vocal cords, start on your back with your feet touching the floor. Concentrate on relaxing your upper body, particularly your head, shoulders, and throat. Inhale slowly in through the nostrils and exhale through slightly pursed lips making a “shhhh” sound. Make sure to be cognizant of your abdomen to gauge the breath as you perform this exercise. After doing it on the floor, try it in different postures while seated.

Your vocal cords can exercised like other voluntary muscles in your body. Whether you are a singer looking for a more melodious voice or a person who has suffered severe trauma to the throat, you can use the techniques outlined in this article to improve the function of your voice box.

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How To Improve Vocal Cord Dysfunction

How To Heal Vocal Cords

Vocal cord dysfunction, also known as VCD, has often been mistaken as Asthma, and at times can co-exist with Asthma. Due to the similarities between the two, it is likely the unnecessary prescribed medication will be given and changed often for the patient, until the right diagnosis of VCD is truly found by a doctor.

Unfortunately, 59 percent of patients are often misdiagnosed with Asthma, prior to knowing they have VCD. Vocal cord dysfunction is often found more in women than in men, and the common age of detection is in persons 20 to 40 years of age, although it has been detected in children as young as eight years of age.

VCD is a syndrome in which airway obstruction leads to respiratory distress, due to improper vocal cord motion. VCD is a condition where your vocal cords don’t function as normally as they should, and instead of the vocal cords opening when you breathe, they close, making it harder for you to get air into your lungs. Patients often describe excessive wheezing, choking sensations, cough and throat tightness associated with vocal cord dysfunction, as well they can experience shortness of breath, chest and throat tightness, chronic cough, frequent throat clearing, voice hoarseness and wheezing.

A detailed patient history is needed to differentiate between the diagnosis of asthma and VCD. VCD is noted with more difficulty in inhalation rather than exhalation, and with the increased sensation of throat tightness or choking. Pulmonary function testing and laryngoscopy usually helps in determining the correct diagnosis.

VCD is a treatable syndrome. A patient is usually referred to a speech-language pathologist to help and provide treatment for VCD. The pathologist will provide education and treatment based on each patients need, and will schedule follow-up appointments to reinforce the treatment given, as well as to support and encourage patients. Speech therapy is the usual form of improvement and treatment for vocal cord dysfunction.

To improve your VCD syndrome there are individualized exercises and techniques given as the patient’s treatment regimen. Some of the exercises taught in therapy treatment involve; increased awareness of breathing patterns, awareness of body posture and throat relaxation, VCD released breathing techniques, control VCD during exercise, suppression techniques for chronic cough, throat clearing techniques, and vocal hygiene. This exercise and therapy regimen is used to improve, prevent and eliminate vocal cord dysfunction. Patients also need to become aware of possible triggers of VCD which could be set off by; upper respiratory infections, exposure to airborne irritants, strong odors or fumes, cigarette or fire smoke, exercise, singing, laughing, environmental changes, stress, anxiety and tension.

As with any other diagnosis related to stress, anxiety and tension, counseling may be needed to help with lifestyle changes needed to improve your VCD. Counseling may also be needed for the extensive treatments, doctor visits and medications

prescribed prior to the proper diagnosis. Some patients fear the worst when symptoms do not go away after numerous prescribed medications and doctor visits. When patients are desperate to find out the problem associated with their symptoms and be correctly diagnosed, they can experience anxiety and stress, which is a known trigger of vocal cord dysfunction. Counseling might be an important part of treatment for VCD, to help with the anxiety and stress some patient’s experience.

The improvement for this condition is not difficult; it just takes time, care and patience. Following the guidelines, exercises, and advice of your physician will help with the prevention and possible elimination of vocal cord dysfunction. With lifestyle changes patients can lead a normal life, and enjoy the activities and exercises they desire. Patients must understand the triggers associated with vocal cord dysfunction and learn how to manage situations that might trigger symptoms. Learning to control stress, anxiety and tension is important in aspects of life, as these symptoms can lead to bigger health concerns. Understand the diagnosis given, listen to your physician and ask questions, be aware of your environment and triggers associated with vocal cord dysfunction. Acknowledge and commit to the treatment, therapy exercises and changes needed to improve vocal cord dysfunction and start living life normally again. In the end not only will you improve your VCD condition but you may even eventually eliminate it.

Living With Vocal Cord Dysfunction

The body, at times, gives us warning signs that something is askew. If we pay attention to them we can find out where the problem lies and work to improve the situation. Giving heed to symptoms lead to rectifying a health problem or at least making it tolerable. Yes many conditions can be well managed and therefore easier to live with.

One such issue that can arise is Vocal Cord Dysfunction. It often manifests itself by means of a tightening of the throat, shortness of breath, a wheezing or coughing. What is this condition? Well, let’s consider how the vocal cords should function and then we’ll discuss what can sometimes happen instead.

Where Are The Vocal Cords Located?

The vocal cords are a mucus membrane that covers muscle and cartiledge in the larynx, or voice box.

As we breathe in, they should open allowing air to flow through, and as we breathe out, they should close, thus restricting air flow. In an unhealthy vocal cord, however, a disorder occurs that causes them to close when they shouldn’t thus limiting the ability to take in air.

The cause of this malfunction is varied. The vocal cords begin to act out as they become inflamed. Sometimes this is due to overuse. Many people who use their voice as their living often experience this effect, such as singers. Another reason could be that an infectious organism is the culprit. Viruses that enter the body when the immune system is down, such as colds and flu, may also cause such inflammation. Even allergies that include post nasal drip may be an irritant to the vocal cords and have the same effect. So what can be done to deal with this situation if it becomes recurring? Since the voice is such a necessary and professional tool for most people and we depend on it so much for even the simplest of communication we must do all we can to alleviate this problem. For one who must live with it there are some simple steps to take to help cope a little better.

Diet

One thing to consider is our diet. It plays such a vital role in most of our health concerns. As we all know water is essential for life. It is also necessary for our vocal cords. It aids in thinning secretions that lubricate the cords thus facilitating ease of distribution and protecting them from dryness which can cause inflammation. So be sure to drink those 8 glasses a day as the doctor recommended.

Another great help is eating more healthy fat foods. Things like tuna, salmon, almonds, flaxseed. All of these have the Omega 3’s our body needs for self repair. And don’t overlook  those antioxidant-containing treats as well, such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and pecans, to name a few. Eating more of these and less dairy (which can act as an allergen) and alcohol will certainly help us in the fight toward vocal cord health.

Exercises

Not to be overlooked also is the need to exercise the vocal cords as well. Breathing exercises may help to relax them and thus aid in better air flow and less swelling. One such exercise is as follows: 1) Lie on the floor with knees bent up toward the ceiling. Place one hand on your abdomen to monitor how it moves during the exercise. 2) Inhale through the nose, keeping the chest and shoulders stationary. While taking air into the abdomen, watch the hand laying across it move upward as you inhale. 3) Exhale with your lips pursed as if you were going to whistle. Make a soft sigh and observe your hand lower as you breathe out. 4) Keep inhaling and exhaling for a few minutes. Alternate between quick breaths and slower ones as you go. Repeat this exercise 3-5 times a day. Soon you’ll notice the tightening in your throat may become less frequent and the cough may subside as the cords are trained to relax again.

Keeping in mind our diet as well as the need for plenty of water and exercise can put us well on the road to recovery from many situations. Or at least help us to cope with the ones we can’t remedy.

Asthma Or Vocal Cord Dysfunction: Which is it?

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is also known as paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction. So what are the symptoms and how do you tell the difference?

Vocal Cord Dysfunction Symptoms (VCD Symptoms)

It can be difficult to diagnose whether or not a person has asthma or vocal cord dysfunction because they have similar symptoms and triggers. Breathing is made more difficult in both, as well as having a hoarse voice, tightness in the throat, wheezing, and coughing. They are however two totally separate disorders.

When you have VCD, vocal cord dysfunction, this means your vocal cords do not close properly when you are breathing in. If you are exposed to any lung irritant or contract an upper respiratory infection, this can trigger the symptoms, as also can exercise . The same is true with asthma. Asthma is the immune system having a reaction and involves  lower airway infection, whereas, VCD does not, therefore treatment will be different for each condition.

This is important because if improperly diagnosed, a person who suffers from vocal cord dysfunction and who is treated with prescribed asthma medication such as cortisteroids and bronchodilators will receive absolutely no benefit and may indeed suffer from unwanted side effects.

VCD Symptoms

One way to suspect vocal cord dysfunction instead of asthma is if

  • Result of pulmonary function test comes back normal
  • Asthma medication does not work
  • Tightness in your throat
  • When your symptoms flare up you have more difficulty breathing in rather than out
  • You have no respiratory infection
  • Nothing is present obstructing your airway

Asthma Symptoms

With asthma you will have

  • Tightness in your lower or middle chest
  • More difficulty breathing out, with high pitched or wheezing sound
  • Respiratory infections are more prevalent
  • Bronchodilator or other asthma medications work
  • As many as 25% of those who suffer from vocal cord dysfunction also have asthma so they may not realize that they have both of the disorders until the vocal cord dysfunction starts to worsen.

It Is NOT A Panic Attack

Vocal cord dysfunction has also been misdiagnosed as panic attacks because it can be triggered by psychological distress. It is important to note that it is not caused by stress but when a person is under extremely stressful situations, this can trigger the symptoms. Other factors that seem to bring on symptoms are having a post nasal drip and suffering from gas reflux. At times environmental causes, such as shouting or singing, tobacco smoke exposure, chemical fumes or even physical exercise can trigger the symptoms.

How To Improve VCD

There is no specific medication for those with vocal cord dysfunction other than to treat any sinus infections or acid reflux symptoms that may occur. There are, however, techniques to control the vibration of the vocal cords and to relax when you breath, that have proven to be helpful; and consultation with a speech therapist can help you to learn these.

Asthma is when the bronchial tubes are inflamed. This causes sticky secretion to be produced inside of the tubes. This mucus clogs the airway and restricts oxygen flow to the lungs. Those at risk the most for asthma are those who suffer from allergies and those who have family histories of asthma. If a parent suffers from asthma, their children are from 3 to 6 times more likely to have it also. In childhood it is more common for boys to be diagnosed while girls are diagnosed more as adults. If you have frequent coughing, sleeping difficulties, fatigue that cannot be explained and feeling as if you’re out of breath, you may consider being checked for asthma.

Asthma sufferers use long term medications to control the bronchial inflammation. Even so there are sometimes flare ups (called asthma attacks) in which an inhaler filled with medications much be used immediately. These medications will work very quickly to relax the muscles that tighten around the airways and allow the flow of air to the lungs to be restored. These inhalers must be carried by the asthmatic at all times since they could be exposed to a trigger and have to use it.

In cases that are severe, asthma can be life threatening because it closes off the airway. Vocal cord dysfunction, however uncomfortable and whatever terrible feelings it produces, does not close off the airway. It is not life threatening. It can of course, still be the source of much anxiety so it is important that you get checked out by a doctor right away if you have any of the symptoms mentioned, to get the proper diagnosis.

Exercises to Improve Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is a condition that that can often be mistaken for asthma. The vocal cords are in your throat and are also known as the voicebox. Normally the vocal cords will relax and open when you breath, allowing air to get into your lungs. In people with VCD, the vocal cords do not function properly and actually will, on occasion, close down the air passageway while breathing. The result is a wheezing or choking sensation that can mimic an asthma attack. However, the treatment of VCD is quite different from that for asthma, as speech therapy and a variety of vocal exercises form the basis of an effective treatment regimen.

VCD is a problem that doctors still do not know a lot about. A wide variety of things are known to trigger an attack. Reflux of gastric acids into the throat, exercise, coughing, laughing, or exposure to certain chemicals can all lead to an attack. Understanding the cause or causes of an attack in an individual is the first step towards treating the disease. In some severe cases, surgery might be necessary to treat an underlying anatomical problem with the vocal cords. However, since the vocal cords are technically voluntary muscles that we can control, speech therapy and exercises can be enough to treat the disease in many cases.

There are a number of exercises that can be useful in treating the disease. These serve two purposes. The first is that exercises can help one better take control of the vocal cords in order to prevent an attack. The other goal is that exercises will help to show a person what to do in the midst of an attack to keep the vocal cords from closing completely. By practicing these exercises constantly when one is not having an attack, the hope is that when an attack arises, instead of panicking, a person will calmly perform the exercise as trained.

Ideally all patients should seek out diagnosis and treatment by a team of specialists if they believe they might suffer with VCD. Each speech therapist will custom tailor a set of exercises based on the specific underlying causes of the VCD. Some sample exercises are listed in this article, although one should always check with a physician before beginning any treatment regimen.


The first exercise that can help improve vocal cord dysfunction begins with lying on your back on the floor. Place your feet on the floor with your knees pointed upward into the air. Let your entire upper body relax, especially in the throat, head, and neck area. Have a book handy to place on your belly which will help you to monitor and be conscious of your breathing as you inhale and exhale (breathe in and breathe out).

Start the exercise by breathing in through your nose using your abdomen. Leave the muscles of the upper chest completely relaxed. You only want to use your belly to take in the breath. Once you have finished inhaling, you will exhale through your mouth. Your lips should be puckered as if you are blowing out a candle. As you exhale (breathe out) use your vocal cords to make the soft “shhhhh” sound. Allow your belly to contract naturally without pushing it, observing the book as this happens.

This exercise should be continued for several minutes at a time. As your perform it, you want to vary the length of your breaths from short to longer. This exercise should be performed from three to five times daily.

The next exercise takes place in the upright position while sitting in a chair. Make sure to sit up straight with your spine straight. Do not slouch. You can improve your posture by making sure your shoulders stack back and relaxed while the chin is tucked in roughly parallel to the floor. It can be difficult for some people to maintain this position because we are so used to reclining chairs that don’t provide our backs with the proper exercise to keep our muscles in trim.

Now place your hands at the sides on your lower rib cage and allow your elbows to flare out. You want to use them to be conscious of your breathing as you were with the book earlier. You will proceed just as before. Keep your upper body, throat, and neck relaxed while slowly drawing in a breath with your belly. Be sure to keep your awareness on the breath using your hands.

Your exhale will also be as before. Let the rib cage relax and contract naturally, keeping a relaxed upper body. As you exhale, whisper “shhhh” with your vocal cords through pursed lips. Continue this process for several minutes, varying the length of your breaths periodically.

Once you have finished breathing in this position, the next step is to vary your posture. Lean forward while performing the same exercise for a few minutes. The entire circuit in the seated position should be completed three to five times per day, preferably after you finish the parallel exercise on your back.

If you encounter a VCD attack in the future, then you should immediately stop what you are doing and focus on your breathing. Start to do one of the above exercises in the posture that is most convenient for your situation. These should be initiated at the first signs of trouble whether it be shortness of breath or just any sort of tightening in the throat.

Vocal cord dysfunction is not a problem that many physicians know about, and thus often goes misdiagnosed and not properly treated. By seeing a qualified specialist and learning specific breathing exercises such as the ones outlined above, you can begin to reclaim your life from the clutches of VCD.

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Improving Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction, also known as VCD, is more likely to be found in women than in men, and the common age of detection is in persons 20 to 40 years of age, although it has been detected in children as young as eight years of age. It is often mistaken for asthma, and at times can co-exist with this, meaning that the sufferer has BOTH conditions. Due to the similarities between VCD and asthma, it is possible that unnecessary medication may be prescribed, until the correct diagnosis of VCD is made. Unfortunately, 59 percent of patients are often misdiagnosed with Asthma, prior to finding out that they actually have VCD.

VCD is a condition in which airway obstruction leads to respiratory distress, due to improper vocal cord motion. In VCD the vocal cords don’t function as they should, and instead of the vocal cords opening when you breathe, they close, making it harder for you to get air into your lungs. Patients often describe excessive wheezing, choking sensations, cough and throat tightness and they can experience shortness of breath, chest and throat tightness, chronic cough, frequent throat clearing and voice hoarseness.

A detailed patient history is needed to differentiate between the diagnosis of asthma and VCD. VCD sufferers generally describe more difficulty in inhalation rather than exhalation, along with a sensation of throat tightness or choking. Pulmonary function testing and laryngoscopy usually helps in determining the correct diagnosis.

VCD Treatment

VCD is treatable. Patients are usually referred to a speech-language specialist for help and treatment. The specialist will provide education and treatment based on each patient’s need, and will schedule follow-up appointments to reinforce the treatment given, as well as to support and encourage patients. Speech therapy is the usual form of improvement and treatment for vocal cord dysfunction.

To improve VCD most patients receive ndividualized exercises and techniques for practise. Some of the exercises taught in therapy treatment involve; increased awareness of breathing patterns, awareness of body posture and throat relaxation, VCD released breathing techniques, control VCD during exercise, suppression techniques for chronic cough, throat clearing techniques, and vocal hygiene. This exercise and therapy regimen is used to improve, prevent and eliminate vocal cord dysfunction. Patients also need to become aware of possible triggers of VCD which could be set off by; upper respiratory infections, exposure to airborne irritants, strong odors or fumes, cigarette or fire smoke, exercise, singing, laughing, environmental changes, stress, anxiety and tension.

Stress and counseling

As with any other diagnosis related to stress, anxiety and tension, counseling may be needed to help with the lifestyle changes needed to improve your VCD. Counseling may also be needed for the extensive treatments, doctor visits and medications prescribed prior to the proper diagnosis. Some patients fear the worst when symptoms do not go away after numerous prescribed medications and doctor visits. When patients are desperate to find out the problem associated with their symptoms and to be correctly diagnosed, they can experience anxiety and stress, which is a known trigger of vocal cord dysfunction. Counseling can be an important part of treatment for VCD, to help with the anxiety and stress some patients experience.

Making those improvements

Improving the condition is not difficult; but it does take time, care, patience and commitment. Following the guidelines, exercises, and advice of your physician will help with the prevention and possible elimination of vocal cord dysfunction.

With lifestyle changes patients can lead a normal life, and enjoy the activities and exercises they desire. Patients must understand the triggers associated with vocal cord dysfunction and learn how to manage situations that might trigger symptoms. Learning to control stress, anxiety and tension is important in all aspects of life, as these symptoms can lead to bigger health concerns. Understand the diagnosis given, listen to your physician and ask questions, be aware of your environment and triggers associated with vocal cord dysfunction. Acknowledge and commit to the treatment, therapy exercises and changes needed to improve vocal cord dysfunction and start living life normally again. In the end not only will you improve your VCD condition you may eventually eliminate it.

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