Although benign, vocal cord lesion can cause vocal problems and affect your quality of life.
Vocal cord lesions are noncancerous growths that include nodules, polyps and cysts. They are commonly associated with repetitive overuse or misuse of the voice.
Nodules, Polyps And Cysts
Vocal cord nodules, also known as singer’s nodules, usually develop in the midpoint of the vocal folds. They look like calluses under the microscope and are sometimes linked to abnormal blood vessels.
Vocal cord polyps are soft, smooth lumps containing blood vessels. They can grow on one or both vocal cords. Resembling blisters, polyps vary in shape and size but are usually larger than nodules.
Vocal cord cysts are growths with a sac around a fluid-filled or semi-solid centre. Less common than vocal cord nodules and polyps, cysts are categorised into two types: mucus retention cysts and epidermoid (or sebaceous) cysts.
Using the voice when one is hit with a respiratory infection or laryngitis can cause vocal cord lesions. They can also result from different forms of trauma, including singing (professional singers), screaming (at sports events or concerts), and excessive talking (teachers, coaches, salespersons or radio personalities). Other causes include smoking, alcohol use, sinusitis and allergies.
Common symptoms include hoarseness, breathiness and loss of voice. Patients with vocal cord nodules or polyps may experience harsh, raspy or scratchy voice, as well as frequent voice breaks, vocal fatigue or decreased vocal range. Patients may also suffer from shooting pain from ear to ear, neck pain or a lump in the throat. Other symptoms include frequent coughing, throat clearing, and general fatigue.
Diagnosis And Treatment
If hoarseness, pain or other symptoms persist for more than two weeks, consult an ENT specialist. An accurate diagnosis is essential before appropriate treatment can be instituted, and this ranges from conservative and lifestyle measures to more invasive intervention.
Voice therapy helps patients with nodules maximise their vocal efficiency and function, while surgery may be needed to remove polyps and cysts. Treating the underlying medical conditions that affect the voice (such as reflux, allergies and sinusitis) may help curtail the severity or occurrence of vocal cord lesions and improve vocal hygiene. Voice problems may also be addressed through smoking cessation, stress reduction and raising vocal awareness.
How To Prevent Vocal Cord Lesions
- Quit smoking and stay away from smoke-filled environments
- Seek treatment for sinusitis, hypothyroidism, allergies, sinusitis or reflux
- Avoid excessive alcohol and limit caffeine intake
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated
- Warm up the voice before singing or prolonged speaking
- Reduce muscle tension via relaxation techniques
- Refrain from speaking loudly or talking excessively without adequate vocal rest
- Use a microphone when needed