Hoarseness and Voice Disorders

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Hoarseness & Voice Disorders

The voice is a wonderfully complex phenomena produced by the lungs, vocal cords, throat, mouth and nasal cavity. A voice is produced when the vocal cords come together and air flows between them, causing the lining of the vocal cords to vibrate with undulating waves. Changes in the voice may indicate and underlying medical problem such as hoarseness, a lump sensation in throat, coughing, phlegm, vocal fatigue, decreased range, breathiness, strain, pain with singing or talking, loss of loudness, difficulty breathing, throat tightness, throat trauma

Disorders of the throat, vocal cords or ‘voice box’ can present itself in many forms, including:

  • · Cancers and Tumours - Either benign or malignant abnormal growth in the vocal cords that may be capable of spreading to other parts of the body, but highly curable if diagnosed early.
  • · Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPRD) - Backflow of stomach acid into the oesophagus which can cause hoarseness, swallowing problems, and pain.
  • · Cyst - a mass on the vocal cord, often caused by blocked mucous glands as a result of irritation. Also, repeated trauma can be associated with the development of cysts. Cysts are often confused with polyps, and nodules.
  • · Polyp - a clearly defined mass on the vocal cord often caused by heavy voice use.
  • · Nodules - Symmetric masses occurring on both vocal cords, a common complaint among singers.
  • · Papilloma - Warty growth of the larynx caused by a virus, often transmitted through person-to-person contact.
  • · Granuloma - Benign growth on the vocal cord resulting from irritation or trauma.
  • · Laryngitis - Inflammation of the vocal cords. It has many causes including acid reflux, smoke inhalation, or a virus.
  • · Tremor - Involuntary muscle movement of the larynx and vocal cords, causing quavering or interruption of voice.
  • · Aging Voice - Weakening of the vocal cord muscle and/or stiffening of vocal tissues as a result of old age. May cause roughness of voice and loss of projection.
  • · Haemorrhage - Bleeding of the vocal cord as a result of heavy voice use or vocal trauma. Often causes a quick onset of hoarseness caused by one particular event of vocal stress.
  • · Sulcus Vocalis - Thinning or absence of a vocal cord tissue called the superficial lamina propria, which is required to properly produce sound. Causes reedy hoarseness, and may be caused by a developmental disorder or by haemorrhage or cyst.
  • · Vocal Fold Scar - Damage to vocal cord tissues that decreases their pliability, often a result of surgery. Causes hoarseness.
  • · Reinke's Edema - Swelling of vocal cord tissues as a result of smoking. Causes a gravelly, low-pitched voice.
  • · Vocal Cord Paralysis - Loss of movement in the muscles that control one or both vocal cords, often as a result of nerve damage. Causes breathy or hoarse voice.
  • · Subglottic Stenosis - Narrowing of area below vocal cords, either congenital or caused by placement of breathing tube during surgery. May cause shortness of breath and hoarseness.
  • · Tracheal Stenosis - Narrowing of trachea, similar to subglottic stenosis; may also be caused by a tumour.
  • · Spasmodic Dysphonia - Neurologic disease causing involuntary vocal cord movements, resulting in strained or breathy breaks in speech.