Frequently Ask Questions About Vocal Cord Nodules and Polyps

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Are you anticipating vocal cord surgery in your near future? Vocal cord surgery is a treatment for many common ENT problems, such as hypernasal speech, vocal cord paralysis, and breathing difficulties. One of the most common reasons that you might be considering vocal cord surgery is nodules or polyps on the vocal cords. Although you might not have heard of vocal cord nodules or polyps before, the is so common that many singers, including Adele, Katie Perry, and Ashley Simpson have required downtime, or even vocal cord surgery in order to correct the issue.

To help you prepare yourself for this treatment, we’ve put together a list of questions that come up when we discuss vocal cord surgery for nodules and polyps with out patients.

Frequently Ask Questions About Vocal Cord Nodules and Polyps

What are vocal cord nodules and polyps?

Nodules and polyps are both growths that appear on the vocal cords if you put a lot of stress on them over time. Both nodules and polyps are non-cancerous and not life threatening, but can cause considerable discomfort. If your line of work involves a lot of use of your vocal cords, you might find that you are unable to do your job.

Basically, a polyp is sort of like a blister on the vocal cord, and a nodule is a callous. If you are a musician or work with your hands a lot, blisters form on the part of your fingers that you use the most. Over time, those blisters add additional layers of skin to protect your fingers, and develop in callouses. The exact same concept applies to your vocal cords. As you put stress on them, they develop soft, painful spot on the areas that take the most beating; these are polyps. The only you continue to exercise your vocal cords with polyps on them, they gradually turn into hardened spots that resist the stress; these are called nodules.

How do I know if the problems I’m experiencing are caused by polyps or nodules?

Both nodules and polyps have a similar impact on your body, when you have them:

  • Your voice gets rough and scratchy, or perhaps hoarse sounding, as the air going through your vocal cords is disrupted by the nodules and polyps.
  • You experience a headache that shoots from one ear to the other.

  • Your neck hurts frequently.
  • Your feel like you have a lump in your throat, that never dissipates.

  • You aren’t able to sing in as wide of a range as you once could.

If you experience these symptoms for more than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about a diagnoses and treatment.

How do doctors diagnose nodules or polyps?

Your doctor will likely refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist for further examination. The ENT diagnosis this issue by evaluating your vocal quality, the pitch and loudness of your voice, and other examinations of your voice. If it is necessary to take further evaluation, they will insert an endoscope into your mouth to take images of your vocal cords and larynx. Sometimes the specialist will use a stroboscope, which emits a flashing light, and captures your vocal cords as they move.

What can I do to treat my nodules or polyps?

Sometimes, nodules and polyps are a secondary result of other medical issues, like reflux, seasonal allergies, or thyroid issues. In those cases, the primary health issues is treated to improve the polyps and nodules.

Before medical intervention is used, your doctor might recommend behavioral changes, such as voice therapy. Therapy will address taking care of your vocal cords, reducing actions that harm them, and adjusting the pitch, breath support, or volume to improve the vocal cords.

If therapy does not improve the presence of nodules and polyps, or if the growths are particularly large and have been there for a long time, your doctor might recommend using vocal cord surgery to improve the health of your vocal cords. Surgery will effectively remove the polyps or nodules from the vocal cords for you. You might need to follow up with therapy, to prevent them from coming back.

Do you have any other questions about vocal cord treatments for nodules or polyps? Please share them below.

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