paralysis means that the vocal cords are frozen in
place-stuck in a fixed position. The vocal cords are part of
the "voice box" and consist of two cords side-by-side near
the Adam's apple. They remain open during normal breathing,
and close to create sound during speech. Vocal cord
paralysis may be attributed to a number of factors. The
severity and nature of the symptoms depend on how quickly
the cords become paralyzed.
- How quickly the cords become paralyzed
- Whether one or both of the cords
- If only one vocal cord is paralyzed, it can cause a hoarse voice with a "breathy" character. It usually does not cause shortness of breath.
- If both cords are paralyzed, the symptoms are determined by the speed of onset of paralysis. If slowly, there may be no symptoms at all and speech is normal.
- If both cords are paralyzed
suddenly, shortness of breath follows. This is an
emergency -- call 911 immediately.
- It is usually due to damage of the nerve which helps open and close the vocal cords.
- If only one vocal cord is paralyzed, it is usually due to thyroid surgery or a tumor in the chest or lungs.
- If both vocal cords are paralyzed,
it is usually due to thyroid surgery, neck injury, or a very
aggressive cancer in the neck. Less often, the problem is
caused by arthritis of the bones in the "voice box."
- Diagnosis is usually made by the symptoms.
- Once the patient is stable, his
vocal cords may be examined using a small laser camera.
- If only one cord is paralyzed, no treatment may be needed. If the person is hoarse, then Teflon can be injected into the vocal cord, or surgery can be done to help with the symptoms.
- For those who are short of breath, this is an emergency and you must call 911.
- If both cords are paralyzed, the
first consideration is to ensure that the patient can
breathe. In an emergency, a hole (tracheostomy) can be made
in the neck through which the patient can breathe
temporarily. After the patient is stable, another surgery
may be performed later to correct
- Allergic Reaction
- Severe Tonsillitis
- Heart Attack
- Foreign body in the airway
- Tumor of the vocal cord
- Deep Neck Infection
- Cancer of the neck or chest
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