When the nerve impulses to your voice box (larynx) are interrupted, vocal cord paralysis is a result of that. The paralysis of the muscle of the vocal cords affects your ability to speak and even breathe. Besides just producing sound, larynx also protects your airway by preventing food, drink and even your saliva from entering the windpipe.
There can be several reasons behind vocal cord paralysis, including damage to nerves during surgery and certain cancer forms. A viral infection or a neurological disorder can also cause vocal cord paralysis.
Vocal cord paralysis is usually diagnosed by an otolaryngologist—a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders. Noting the symptoms the patient has experienced, the otolaryngologist will ask how and when the voice problems started in order to help determine their cause. Next, the otolaryngologist listens carefully to the patient’s voice to identify breathiness or harshness. Then, using an endoscope—a tube with a light at the end—the otolaryngologist looks directly into the throat at the vocal cords. A speech-language pathologist may also use an acoustic spectrograph, an instrument that measures voice frequency and clarity, to study the patient’s voice and document its strengths and weaknesses.
The other diagnosis for vocal cord paralysis are laryngeal electromyography, and blood tests and scans. Laryngeal electromyography is done to measure the electric currents in your voice box muscles. The health care professional inserts small needles into your vocal cord muscles through the skin of the neck. However, this test is rarely done as it doesn't usually provide information that might change the course of treatment.
Blood tests and scans are done as there are certain diseases that can cause injury to the nerve. In that case, additional tests are required to identify the cause of the paralysis. Blood tests and scans for vocal cord paralysis include blood work, lung function tests, X-rays, MRI and CT scans.
The condition is treatable; the treatment for vocal cord paralysis usually includes voice therapy; however, surgery can also be done.
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