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

PVFM or PMVC

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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradoxical_reaction

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…)

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.