Vocal cord nodules and polyps

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

Definition

What are vocal cord nodules and polyps?

Vocal cord nodules are benign (noncancerous) growths on both vocal cords that are caused by vocal abuse. Over time, repeated abuse of the vocal cords results in soft, swollen spots on each vocal cord. These spots develop into harder, callous-like growths called nodules. The nodules will become larger and stiffer the longer the vocal abuse continues.

Polyps can take a number of forms. They are sometimes caused by vocal abuse. Polyps appear on either one or both of the vocal cords. They appear as a swelling or bump (like a nodule), a stalk-like growth, or a blister-like lesion. Most polyps are larger than nodules and may be called by other names, such as polypoid degeneration or Reinke’s edema. The best way to think about the difference between nodules and polyps is to think of a nodule as a callous and a polyp as a blister.

How common are vocal cord nodules and polyps?

Polyps are common among adults. Nodules can occur in children. It has been noted that, for unknown reasons, vocal nodules occur more frequently in women between the ages of 20 and 50. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of vocal cord nodules and polyps?

The common symptoms of vocal cord nodules and polyps are:

  • Hoarseness
  • Breathiness
  • A “Rough” Voice
  • A “Scratchy” Voice
  • Harshness
  • Shooting pain from ear to ear
  • A “Lump in the throat” sensation
  • Neck pain
  • Decreased pitch range
  • Voice and body fatigue

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes vocal cord nodules and polyps?

Nodules are most frequently caused by vocal abuse or misuse. Polyps may be caused by long-term vocal abuse but may also occur after a single, traumatic event to the vocal cords, such as yelling at a concert. Long-term cigarette smoking, hypothyroidism, and GERD may also cause polyp formation. Vocal abuse takes many forms and includes:

  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Tense muscles
  • Singing
  • Coaching
  • Cheerleading
  • Talking loudly
  • Drinking caffeine and alcohol (dries out the throat and vocal cords)

Risk factors

What increases my risk for vocal cord nodules and polyps?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are vocal cord nodules and polyps diagnosed?

If you have experienced a hoarse voice for more than 2 to 3 weeks, you should see a physician. A thorough voice evaluation should include:

  • A physician’s examination, preferably by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) who specializes in voice,
  • A voice evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (slp), and
  • Possibly a neurological examination.

The team will evaluate vocal quality, pitch, loudness, ability to sustain voicing, and other voice characteristics. An instrumental examination may take place that involves inserting an endoscope into the mouth or nose to look at the vocal cords and larynx in general. A stroboscope (flashing light) may be used to watch the vocal cords as they move.

How are vocal cord nodules and polyps treated?

Nodules and polyps may be treated medically, surgically, and/or behaviorally. Surgical intervention involves removing the nodule or polyp from the vocal cord. This approach only occurs when the nodules or polyps are very large or have existed for a long time. Surgery is rare for children. Medical problems may be treated to reduce their impact on the vocal cords. This includes treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), allergies, and thyroid problems. Medical intervention to stop smoking or to control stress is sometimes needed.

Many people receive behavioral intervention, or voice therapy, from an SLP. Voice therapy involves teaching good vocal hygiene, reducing/stopping vocal abusive behaviors, and direct voice treatment to alter pitch, loudness, or breath support for good voicing. Stress reduction techniques and relaxation exercises are often taught as well.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vocal cord nodules and polyps?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

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Review Date: November 2, 2017 | Last Modified: December 6, 2019

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