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You have been told that you may have vocal cord dysfunction (VCD). Read on to learn more about VCD and its treatment.
The vocal cords are two bands of muscle inside the larynx (voice box). The larynx rests at the top of your trachea (windpipe). This is in your throat. Normally, when a person breathes in and out, air flows through the vocal cords and in and out of the lungs, allowing him or her to breathe easily. But with VCD, the vocal cords close when they should open. When you breathe in, instead of opening, the vocal cords close and cut off the air supply. The cause of VCD is often unclear. Conditions such as postnasal drip or acid reflux might trigger it. Cigarette smoking and cold air are other possible triggers.
Possible symptoms include:
Being short of breath
Repeated coughing or throat clearing
Tightness in the chest or throat
You may be asked to perform breathing tests to measure how well air flows into and out of your lungs. Laryngoscopy may also be done. This test allows the healthcare provider to view your vocal cords using a thin, often flexible scope called a laryngoscope. Because symptoms of VCD are similar to those of asthma, tests for asthma may be done.
The main treatment for VCD is learning to manage and control symptoms when they occur. Recommendations may include the following:
Speech therapy teaches you how to control your vocal cords. A speech therapist or other specialist instructs you how to relax the muscles in your throat.
Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, to help reduce stress.
Biofeedback teaches you how to control certain physical functions and responses. You learn how to reduce muscle tension.
Psychotherapy involves working with a specially trained mental health professional about your problems. He or she can help you better cope with stress.
Other methods of treatment may be available. Your healthcare provider can tell you more, if needed.
To help prevent episodes of VCD, make changes in your life to reduce and manage triggers. If the cause of your VCD is a medical condition such as acid reflux, you may need to take medication and change certain eating habits. If you smoke, quitting can help you control VCD. Your healthcare provider can tell you more.
Get medical care right away if you have severe trouble breathing.