Common Throat and Voice Disorders

We often take our voices for granted. Whenever we want to speak, shout, sing or whisper, our voices are automatically there. But what happens when you open your mouth to speak and suddenly find your ability to communicate has been cut off by a hidden problem? Of course, you call ENT Specialists of Austin to uncover the cause of your difficulties, but these common throat and voice disorders may be to blame.


Your “voice box” is actually a complex combination of cartilage, muscles and tendons that all combine to create sound. The technical term for this part of your throat is the larynx. Sitting at the top of your windpipe or trachea, your larynx contains vocal cords that vibrate together to create sounds of speech and singing. When your vocal cords become swollen, either from sickness or overuse, the entire area becomes inflamed, resulting in a condition called laryngitis. You may sound hoarse when you talk and have a limited pitch range until the laryngitis goes away. Most cases of laryngitis subside on their own, especially those that are caused by inflammation from a virus. 

Polyps, nodules and cysts (oh my!)

Your vocal cords are actually two folds of mucous membranes that cover a combination of muscle and cartilage. When the mucous membranes become irritated, your voice tends to be hoarse. But persistent irritation from excessive talking, yelling, singing improperly or otherwise straining your voice can cause growths to form on the vocal cords. These may be in the form of nodules, polyps or cysts. Nodules tend to form on only one vocal cord and look like callouses. Polyps can be on one or both vocal cords and tend to be more vascularized than nodules, looking more like red blisters. Vocal cord cysts have a fluid-filled sac around them or a semi-solid center. All three conditions result in hoarseness, and vocal rest is the most common treatment for nodules and polyps. Cysts are far less common, but they may require surgical intervention.

Vocal Cord Paralysis

Your vocal cords do more than help you speak. They also protect your airway from food, the things you drink and saliva. When the nerves to your larynx are disrupted due to an accident, a stroke, surgery or other trauma, you may experience vocal cord paralysis. This not only affects the way you talk, it can impact how you breathe, eat and drink as well. In most cases, only one vocal cord is paralyzed, but it can result in a breathy quality to your voice, hoarseness, a loss of your vocal pitch, breathing noisily, choking while you eat or drink, losing your gag reflex, or being unable to speak loudly. Even though vocal cord paralysis is rare, it is a serious condition that can lead to grave health problems.

Ultimately, practicing good vocal health can keep you talking, singing and cheering for years to come. Using vocal rest if you have any hoarseness and seeing an ENT for persistent or severe symptoms can have you talking again in no time. If you believe you have a throat or vocal disorder, call ENT Specialists of Austin today to schedule an appointment. Our board-certified ENTs are waiting to help you get back on track to vocal health.

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