Vocal cord lesions, also known as vocal fold lesions, are benign (non-cancerous) growths called nodules, cysts, or polyps. These growths result from overuse or misuse of the voice. They can develop in anyone, but women between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, smokers, and singers, actors, or others who use their voice professionally are at highest risk for developing vocal nodules, cysts, or polyps.
Vocal Fold Nodules
Our vocal folds strike each other over 100 times per second when we are speaking, and this repeated trauma can lead to a build-up of thickened callus on the surface. These calluses are referred to as nodules, even though there may not be anything “nodular” about them. This benign condition is commonly seen in people who use their voices heavily: singers, teachers, lawyers, and public speakers are at risk, but so is anyone who talks excessively. Treatment consists of improving vocal hygiene, voice therapy, and for severe cases, surgery.
Vocal Fold Cysts
A cyst is simply a small, closed-off structure that may either be filled with fluid or with solid material. These benign lesions can occur below the surface of the vocal fold and have a significant impact on the normal vibration and sound production. While voice therapy can sometimes be helpful in patients with small cysts, most will eventually require surgery to see long-term voice improvement.
Vocal Fold Polyps
Vocal fold polyps are benign growths that generally occur in response to a broken blood vessel. The body attempts to heal the broken vessel by forming a layer of tissue that then grows into a polyp. These can disturb the quality of the voice by preventing the vocal folds from closing and vibrating appropriately. Depending on the size of the lesion, either voice therapy or surgery will usually result in permanent voice improvement.
Symptoms of vocal cord lesions include:
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Frequent breaks in the voice
- Frequent coughing or throat clearing
- Hoarse voice
- Loss of vocal range
- Loss of voice
- Multiple tones of the voice
- Neck pain
- Shooting pain from ear to ear
- Vocal fatigue
Your ENT doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and ask you questions to diagnose your vocal nodules, cysts, or polyps. He or she may use a special, lighted scope to closely examine the vibration of your vocal cords and look for abnormalities.
Your ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor may recommend you undergo voice therapy to manage your vocal cord lesions. You will learn techniques and strategies to maximize vocal efficiency and function, as well as improve your overall vocal awareness.
Your doctor may recommend that you take some time to rest your voice from singing – or even from speaking altogether – to give your voice a chance to heal.
Your ENT doctor will recommend that you quit smoking to reduce strain on the vocal cords and to improve your overall health.
Your ENT specialist may recommend that you find ways to help reduce and manage the stress in your life, which can place a strain on your voice.
If therapy has not helped your vocal nodules, your ENT doctor may recommend you undergo surgery to remove the nodules. Polyps and cysts usually do not respond to voice therapy, so surgery may be needed.
Why Choose UHealth?
Ranked No. 28 in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. The ranking reflects the team’s dedication to excellence in research patient care and outcomes. Surgeons, audiologists, biomedical engineers, speech pathologists, researchers, and psychologists collaborate with many research programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to deliver the best possible multidisciplinary care to pediatric and adult ear, nose, and throat patients.
Customized treatment from a multidisciplinary team. We work with you to understand your condition and your vocal goals so we can craft a customized treatment plan that makes the most sense for you. When therapy is needed, we develop a personalized therapy program based on your specific situation and tailored to your needs and goals. Our multidisciplinary team works alongside you for the long term to ensure that you receive comprehensive treatment and get your voice back.
World-class care in an academic health system. We are recognized throughout South Florida and the world as a leader in treating conditions and disorders of the ear, nose, and throat. Backed by one of the nation’s top universities, our team uses the latest technologies and research-driven expertise to provide you with superior, personalized care and the best outcomes.
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