Thumbnail image of: Head and Throat: Illustration

Vocal Cord Growth or Sore

What is a vocal cord growth or sore?

A vocal cord growth or sore is an area of abnormal tissue on your vocal cords. The vocal cords are located at the top of your windpipe (trachea). They vibrate when you talk. There are different kinds of vocal cord sores and growths that can form on one or both vocal cords:

  • Polyps and nodules, which are solid lumps or bumps
  • Cysts, which are fluid-filled sacs
  • Thickening of the vocal cords
  • Thick, white patches of abnormal tissue that may cause cancer over time

What is the cause?

Vocal cord growths or sores may be caused by:

  • Heavy smoking or drinking
  • Overuse of your voice, such as in teaching or public speaking, singing or shouting
  • Frequent or prolonged hard coughing
  • Exposure to dust, chemicals, or cigarette smoke
  • Thyroid disease
  • Long-term sinusitis with drainage that goes down the back of your throat
  • Acid reflux from the stomach
  • Radiation therapy in the neck

What are the symptoms?

Some types of growths and sores do not cause symptoms. Often, the first symptom is an unnaturally low, deep, or raspy voice that happens when the growths interfere with the flow of air past the vocal cords.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have tests such as:

  • Laryngoscopy, which uses a slim, flexible, lighted tube passed through your mouth to look at your vocal cords
  • A biopsy, which is the removal of a small sample of tissue for testing
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the throat
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the throat

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on the kind of vocal cord change you have, and how severe your symptoms are. Treatment may include:

  • Resting your voice
  • Voice therapy with a speech therapist to learn how to use your voice in a healthy way
  • Surgery to remove the growth

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Don’t smoke, and stay away from others who are smoking.
  • Avoid breathing dust and chemical fumes.
  • Rest your voice as much as possible.
  • Drink extra fluids, such as water, fruit juice, and tea.
  • Use a humidifier to put more moisture in the air. Avoid steam vaporizers because they can cause burns. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean, as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s important to keep bacteria and mold from growing in the water container.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent vocal cord growths or sores?

  • Get treatment if you often have sinus drainage.
  • Avoid vocal strain by not yelling, screaming, or talking loudly, especially when you have a cold or other throat or sinus infection.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
  • If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink.
  • If you have frequent heartburn or reflux disease, see your healthcare provider about preventing or treating these problems.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-03
Last reviewed: 2014-09-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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