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Vocal Cord Dysfunction

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Treatment for Vocal Cord Dysfunction in Charlotte

Vocal cord dysfunction can be a frustrating and difficult condition for many individuals. At Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we understand the impact that vocal cord dysfunction can have on your lifestyle and well-being, and we are committed to providing comprehensive care to help manage and treat this condition.

Our team of board-certified allergists and experienced healthcare professionals is dedicated to providing personalized treatment plans and ongoing support to help you live your life to the fullest. Whether you are seeking a diagnosis, treatment, or ongoing management of your vocal cord dysfunction so you can find relief from your symptoms, we are here to help you every step of the way.


How to Request an Appointment

At Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center, we offer comprehensive evaluation and treatment for your vocal cord dysfunction. If you suspect you may have vocal cord dysfunction or have experienced issues with your vocal cords, you can request an appointment with our team of board-certified allergists and experienced healthcare professionals.

To schedule an appointment, you can call our office or fill out the online appointment request form on our website. Our friendly staff will work with you to find a convenient date and time for your visit.

During your appointment, our allergists will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and conduct any necessary tests to determine if you have vocal cord dysfunction. Based on your evaluation, our team will develop a personalized treatment plan to help manage your symptoms.

What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

Vocal cord dysfunction occurs when the vocal cords to “freeze” or tighten and close when they’re supposed to stay open – i.e. for breathing. Those with this disorder are unable to control these muscles, resulting in labored breathing.

Up to 80% of vocal cord dysfunction episodes are mistaken for asthma. Though both conditions cause shortness of breath, vocal cord dysfunction involves the malfunctioning of the vocal cord muscles and not the airways themselves.

While asthma can be life-threatening, vocal cord dysfunction is not – even though it may feel like it. Typically, those suffering from vocal cord dysfunction are still getting enough oxygen.

Types of Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction can be organized into four common types, including:

  • Laryngospasm: This occurs when your vocal cords temporarily tighten or spasm, making it hard to breathe.
  • Exercised-induced: During exercise, your vocal cords position themselves in the middle, instead of staying open.
  • Irritant-induced: Due to exposure to irritants – such as smoke or dust – your vocal cords tighten.
  • Stress-induced: Because of stress or psychological factors, your vocal cords respond by tightening.

What are the Causes & Risks of Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

Triggers of vocal cord dysfunction may include:

  • Exercise
  • Strong smells and irritants (smoke, dust, cleaners, chemical fumes, etc.)
  • Stress and other psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression
  • Voice overuse
  • A cold or viral infection
  • A sinus infection
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Acid reflux

Vocal cord dysfunction is most common in women, especially those aged 20-40. However, it may affect anyone, including kids.

What are the Symptoms of Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

Vocal cord dysfunction is characterized by difficulty breathing, particularly getting air into your lungs (during inspiration). Other symptoms may include:

  • Sensation of choking, suffocating or being “strangled”
  • Wheezing and stridor
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing and clearing your throat
  • Lump in the throat or throat tightness
  • Chest tightness and pain
  • Voice changes
  • Difficulty speaking

Unlike asthma, vocal cord dysfunction symptoms typically do not occur during sleep.

How is Vocal Cord Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Vocal cord dysfunction can be tricky to diagnose because asthma and vocal cord dysfunction share similar symptoms.  To help differentiate between asthma and vocal cord dysfunction, your doctor will assess your oxygen level and your airflow pattern. Here are two common tests that your doctor may perform:

  • Pulse oximeter test: This device clips on your finger or ear and uses light to see what percentage of your red blood cells are carrying oxygen. With vocal cord dysfunction, your oxygen levels are typically normal.
  • Flow-volume loop: This test looks at airflow patterns in your lungs while at rest or exercising. Your doctor will be looking to see if your inhalation pattern is abnormal, which is a common sign of vocal cord dysfunction.


In addition to these tests, your doctor may want to get a visual of your vocal cords, which will help rule out vocal cord damage or growth that may be causing symptoms.

In this case, you’ll be asked to undergo a rhinolaryngoscopy. This involves a fiber optic scope that is inserted into your nose and throat to look at your vocal cords.

Before insertion, you’ll receive a nasal spray to decongest the nose, as well as a local anesthetic. When the scope enters, it may be uncomfortable, but it should not hurt. You may be asked to breathe and swallow in a certain way once the scope is in place.

During this test, your doctor will examine your throat tissue and how your vocal cords move when you breathe and speak. Usually, it’s recommended not to eat 1-2 hours prior to the test.

Treatment for Vocal Cord Dysfunction in Charlotte

With the right care plan, you can manage vocal cord dysfunction. A doctor may recommend that you start with breathing exercises and speech therapy.

Speech therapy will work on relaxing your throat and vocal cord muscles and controlling your breathing. Often, you will be given practice exercises to maintain your vocal cord health. Fortunately, speech therapy improves symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction in 90% of cases.

In addition, your doctor will address any triggers of vocal cord dysfunction, such as irritants or post-nasal drip. By preventing your exposure to triggers, you will be less likely to have an episode. In the case of stress, for example, you may undergo relaxation techniques or psychotherapy.


At Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center, we are dedicated to providing compassionate care and ongoing support to help you live your life to the fullest. Contact us today to request an appointment and take the first step towards managing your vocal cord dysfunction.

Allergy Shot FAQs

Is vocal cord dysfunction dangerous?

No, vocal cord dysfunction isn’t usually life-threatening, though it can be scary to have trouble breathing. Typically, your body is getting enough oxygen, even if it doesn’t feel like it. However, this disorder makes it uncomfortable to breathe and speak.

How can you tell the difference between asthma and vocal cord dysfunction?

Asthma and vocal cord dysfunction have similar symptoms. However, vocal cord dysfunction is characterized by having trouble breathing in, while asthma affects breathing out. With vocal cord dysfunction, you’ll also have normal oxygen levels and symptoms typically do not occur while you are sleeping.

Can vocal cord dysfunction go away on its own?

No, vocal cord dysfunction does not usually go away on its own. That said, you can manage your symptoms and reduce the frequency of episodes through speech therapy and elimination of triggers.

How long does it take to recover from vocal cord dysfunction?

Treatment for vocal cord dysfunction may take around 3-6 months to see results. During this time, you will learn speech therapy techniques and establish new vocal cord patterns. However, therapy may last longer depending on the individual.

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