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.


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.


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.

My Story on Vocal Cord Dysfunction

I Researched Vocal Cord Dysfunction Myself When I Started Having Trouble With It

Medical conditions that make it hard to breathe can be some of the most terrifying problems to deal with. I know this from first-hand experience thanks to a frightening run-in with vocal cord dysfunction. This is a fairly rare condition, and it’s not understood by many people – not even doctors. Here’s what I went through.

About a year ago, I started to experience what I thought were asthma attacks. I would experience a little shortness of breath, and shortly afterwards it would suddenly get nearly impossible to suck air into my throat. I found it easy to breath out, but the difficulties I experienced breathing in were extremely frightening. The first time this happened to me, I figured I had eaten something disagreeable. These attacks started to come with greater and greater frequency, though, so I decided to put matters into my doctor’s hands.

After listening to the way I described my attacks, my doctor’s first thought was that I was experiencing the onset of asthma. He wasn’t certain that this was the case, though – and I’m really glad he kept an open mind! He started the process of treatment by giving me a standard bronchodilator inhaler used to treat asthma and telling me to use it the next time I experienced an attack. Although we both had high hopes, this treatment didn’t do much to help me in my next few attacks. Over the course of several more visits, my doctor proposed and tested for several more respiratory conditions.

We got lucky on one visit when I had a mild attack right there in the doctor’s office. This enabled him to get a first-hand look at my problem, and it proved to be vital in diagnosing my vocal cord dysfunction properly. This was a stressful experience in itself, as my doctor maneuvered an endoscope down my throat while I was struggling to get air into my lungs. I’m glad he did it, though, because he was able to see the abnormal activity of my vocal cords and make a solid VCD diagnosis.

It turns out that vocal cord dysfunction is still very poorly understood. Doctors are uncertain about what exactly causes it. During an attack, my vocal cords tense and block my airway when I’m trying to breathe in. Contrast this to asthma, where sufferers usually have a hard time breathing out. Also, VCD attacks tend to occur during the day and seldom at night, where asthma attacks are much more common in the nocturnal hours. The most important difference between the two conditions is that the common treatments used on asthma – steroids and bronchodilators – are ineffective at treating VCD. I’m fortunate in that my vocal cord dysfunction is fairly minor. In severe cases, sufferers require pretty invasive treatments to restore proper breathing function. Botox injections and even tracheotomies are sometimes required!

Among the different potential causes for vocal cord dysfunction there are both physical and psychological factors. VCD may be an extreme form of allergic reaction, a complication of severe sinus congestion, or some kind of neurological problem. On the psychological side of things, it may be caused by stress and anxiety. After my first few experiences with VCD attacks, the prospect of another one definitely stressed me out!

As I mentioned above, the treatments required to relieve severe cases of vocal cord dysfunction can get pretty extreme. I’m lucky. My case has responded very well to a course of careful breathing exercises I’ve been taught to perform when I feel an attack coming on. These exercises help ease me through an attack and reduce the amount of anxiety I feel about the whole process. Although it’s impossible to say for certain, I believe my case is probably mainly psychological. Now that I understand my condition and have effective tools to fight it, it bothers me much less than it did when it was a mystery.

I’ve shared my story here to try and get the word out about VCD. If you (or a loved one) have sudden attacks that make it difficult to breathe in, vocal cord dysfunction is a potential diagnosis you should keep in mind. It’s definitely better to know what you’re facing than to try and deal with an unknown.

Bob is a guest contributor who agreed to tell his story so other people would know what VCD is like.

Top Asthma Advice For Easier Breathing Everyday

Asthma is an extremely hard disease to have to live with. It takes away your ability to do simple every day tasks, like going for a walk outside. Do not expect to get rid of this condition. The best you can do is keep it under control. That said, there ARE tips and techniques which can make managing your asthma and returning to a full life possible, and we’ve included many in this article. Read on!

If you are having an asthma attack (mild or moderate), you need to try to force air out of the lungs. Exhale quickly and with power. Push that air from your lungs with all that you’ve got! Inhale three times with short breaths, and then on the fourth one take a deeper breath so your lungs are full of air but still comfortable. Then breath out as hard as you can again. This will make your breathing rhythmic and help you pay more attention to it. It also allows you to take in more air by completely emptying your lungs. You might cough hard or create mucus, but its just a sign your breathing is getting back to normal.

If inhaler use happens more than two times in each of your weeks, you must schedule an appointment with your doctor about this and possibly adjust your medication. Frequent need of an inhaler is an indication that the medication prescribed is not the right strength. Having to restock your inhaler more frequently than once every six months is also a concern.

As we mentioned here, asthma is a severe condition that you should not take lightly. If you think your symptoms are getting out of control, seek professional advice and do all that you can to prevent symptoms in the first place. Use the advice you have read from this article to manage your symptoms of asthma and take back control over your life.

How To Stop Asthma From Ruining Your Social Life

The number of people suffering from asthma is rising, so treatment is a more common need than ever. The demand for products and treatment leads to some very innovative medicines and therapies. Now is a great time to find something to treat your asthma. Here are a few tips to provide that help.

If you suffer from asthma, and have many attacks that are related to your allergy symptoms, there is a medication that is injected and provides long term effects. Your allergist may recommend a variety of medications to control your reactions and the onset of asthma.

The best thing to do for your asthma is to know what particular things trigger the attacks. For some, dust particles and animal dander prompt asthma flares. In addition to attempting to avoid substances that can trigger your asthma, you can consider air filtration systems that remove irritants from the air of your home.

Asthma is sometimes caused by genetics, and sometimes by environmental causes or both. If a loved one in your household suffers from asthma, be mindful of any signs in others. Air pollutants like smoke and mold spores can trigger an asthma attack, so keep your home clean to avoid irritation.

Don’t exercise in cold, dry air if you have asthma. This is because when your bronchial airways become cool and dry, they can cause an asthma attack. So, it is always best to be in conditions that are humid and warm while doing strenuous exercises.

Monitor your children for food allergies. If you notice any kinds of hives or breathing problems after they have eaten a particular food, have them tested for the allergy at the doctor’s. These food allergies should be monitored, as they could be indicative of asthma or possibly other allergic reactions.

Avoid allergens and consult your doctor if your current medication fails to limit your asthma attacks to less than three each week and especially if you find your medication becoming less effective. Medical professionals generally consider two or more allergy attacks weekly to be dangerous, but completely preventable.

Asthma Attacks

Some of the most notorious causes of asthma attacks exist in normal households. These are dust, mold and spores. If you want to prevent and manage these sources of asthma attacks, have regular home inspections by a professional, and get identified harming agents cleaned out. It also helps to clean your home frequently to prevent a build-up of these allergens but make sure you use environmentally friendly cleaning agents, such as vinegar and water, rather than perfumed aerosol sprays which can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible people.

As shown, there is a wealth of treatments and strategies to help control your asthma and you need to find a treatment that works well for you. There is a lot of information available that will show the benefits of each treatment. When you follow these tips, you will be able to improve how well you breathe.

Asthma Advice For Anyone Dealing With This Problem

Asthma can be a difficult condition to have to deal with. And for some people, such tasks as even going for a stroll, may be too difficult. Asthma is incurable and can be difficult to control but there are many ways in which you can stop your symptoms from getting too severe.

Peer Support for people with asthma

Speaking to your peers, who also suffer from asthma, could be an eye-opening and life-changing experience. Support groups can give you some suggestions on how deal with certain situations, and help you to fight your asthma and understand how best to deal with it. Support from people who understand your situation is key.

Medical Professionals to help with asthma symptoms and management

You should have a team of medical professionals to help you craft your asthma treatment. Of course your regular doctor will be the one you go to for help with your asthma, but you should also see a specialist. Asthma centers, pulmonologists, nutritionists and allergists can all work with you, making sure you are getting all the treatment you need. Your own doctor or medical practice may also have special clinics run locally, to help you avoid travelling long distances and can also help you learn to manage your asthma.

Asthma medication may need to be adjusted if you are suffering from a cold, flu or hay fever. The effects of some illnesses can exacerbate the effects of asthma, causing the need for more treatments. The doctor may choose to pursue additional treatment options during your illness as well.

If you need to take your asthma supplies on an airplane, it is a good idea to bring your doctor’s prescription with you. If you have written proof about the item you have, and that it is medically necessary, there will be fewer hassle with security.

Keeping your home suitable for someone with asthma

Clean your home with a wet mop instead of a broom. Sweeping the floor kicks up dust and other debris that can set off an attack of your asthma. You can greatly reduce this by using a wet sponge, damp rag, or moist cloth instead of your a broom or duster.

If you suffer from asthma, you might want to use a pillow that doesn’t contain feathers. Pillow feathers are known to worsen asthma and affect the lungs. The same reasoning applies to all bedding – only purchase bed sheets and comforters that are manufactured from hypoallergenic materials.

Asthma can be a dangerous disease – never ignore the symptoms. Take the appropriate steps to prevent and reduce symptoms, and consult professional help if you think that the symptoms are starting to get out of control. If you use the above advice, you can make asthma something you only have to attend to occasionally rather than something that rules your life.

What You Need To Do If You Have Asthma

The millions of people who are dealing with asthma may have a hard time doing the most simple things. Thankfully, there are a wide array of ways to treat asthma so you do not have to fear living every day life. This article will give you some great tips to help you better understand asthma and how it affects you.

Asthma generally takes a long time to develop, and the symptoms may be vague at first, making it difficult to diagnose the problem. There have been a few cases where a person dies from their first attack, because they didn’t know they suffered from the condition. If you find yourself with a constant cough or have trouble breathing, consult your doctor, so he or she can tell you if you have asthma and whether you need medication. They may even have suggestions on how to prevent it from worsening.

Don’t use humidifiers or vaporizers in your home until they have been rigorously cleaned, if you suffer from either asthma, allergies or both. If it is not clean you end up getting bacteria growing in the damp interior of the machine, and that can cause allergens to multiply in the air you want to humidify.

Asthma Attacks

Know what causes your asthma attacks, as this will enable you to work around them or prepare to treat the asthma attacks that result. Most asthma sufferers have a few common triggers such as smoke, pet dander or pollen. Whenever you can, just steer clear of these triggers when you know what they would result in.

Eat foods high in vitamin B6. Getting increased amounts of B6, also called pyridoxine, has been scientifically shown to make asthma attacks less frequent. Pyridoxine is essential because it produces certain substances that relax bronchial tissues. People who need additional vitamin B6 should eat bananas.

Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement or Paradoxical Movement of Vocal Cords


Paradoxical Movement of Vocal Cords (PMVC) or Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM) are older terms previously used for what is now known as Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD). All three of these terms will be used interchangeably in this article. VCD happens when the vocal cords close inappropriately on the in-breath, which results in obstruction of the airway. During normal breathing, the vocal cords move apart from each other when we breathe in, allowing air into the airway. The vocal cords move towards each when we breathe out, when we speak and when we cough. The key feature of VCD is that, during breathing, the vocal cords can try to close over rather than stay open and it is this squeezing that reduces the size of the air passages, making it harder to get air into the lungs. In order to diagnose VCD, the doctor will watch the vocal cords moving. Between attacks the vocal cords may appear to move normally, resulting in a false negative test, so it can be necessary to trigger an attack.

The tem “paradoxical” is used in medicine to denote something happening in the opposite direction to what is expected. When a person is breathing, it would be expected that the vocal cords would be open to allow the greatest possible air flow. But in some people, the vocal cords close over when they are breathing, squeezing the air passage. This lessens or restricts the air flow and so this movement of the vocal cords is termed “paradoxical” because they close over when they should be open.

Intermittent paradoxical closure of the vocal cords can bring on a major attack of breathlessness, or air hunger (dyspnea). The paradoxical movement of the vocal cords or decreased movement during attacks can be recorded on video by a doctor or can also be seen by using a mirror placed at the back of the tongue. Paradoxical movement of the vocal cords can also cause noisy breathing, raspiness or wheezing (stridor). PMVC / PVFM / VCD is not the only cause of noisy breathing: it can also be caused by laryngitis, inflammation of the vocal cords and vocal polyps or nodules (little swellings). (more…)