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
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:
Donâ€™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.