What is Vocal Cord Paralysis and what Causes it

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 11, 2011

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Quick Bites

  • The human vocal cord is responsible for production of sound.
  • It prevents food, drink and saliva from entering windpipe.
  • People with neurological conditions can develop vocal cord paralysis.
  • People who had chest/thyroid surgery can have vocal cord paralysis.

The human vocal cord is responsible for the production of sound, and it even protects the airway by preventing food, drink and saliva from entering your windpipe, which could cause you to choke.

The paralysis of your vocal cord occurs when the nerve impulses to your larynx, or voice box gets interrupted. Therefore, this then results in the paralysis of the muscle of the vocal cords. The paralysis of your vocal cords can affect your ability to speak and also your ability to breathe. Vocal cord paralysis can cause nerve damage during surgery and in certain cancers. The paralysis can also be caused by a viral infection or certain neurological disorder.

vocal cord paralysis

What Causes this Vocal Cord Paralysis?

When a person suffers from vocal cord paralysis, their nerve impulses to the voice box or the larynx gets disrupted. It is often not known as to what causes the vocal cord paralysis, but some of the known causes are listed here below:

Injury – If you have a surgery on your neck, or upper chest then this could result in the damage to your nerves that serve the voice box. Some surgeries that may pose as a risk of damage are parathyroid glands, esophagus, neck and the chest.

Stroke – When a person suffers from a stroke it interrupts the blood flow in the human brain and this could damage a part of your brain that sends messages to the voice box.

Tumours - Tumours that are cancerous and noncancerous can both grow in or around your muscles, cartilages or nerves of your voice box. This could cause vocal cord paralysis.

Inflammation – If you suffer from arthritis or have gone through a surgery that has caused inflammation and scarring of the vocal cord joints or he space between your two vocal cords cartilages, then the inflammation may prevent your vocal cords from opening and closing.

Neurological Conditions – Certain neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease could push you to experience vocal cord paralysis.


Who are at Risk?

There are factors that can increase your risk of developing vocal cord paralysis, here are some examples:

Female – It has been found that women are actually more likely to develop vocal cord paralysis compared to men.
Throat & Chest Surgery – Those patients who have had thyroid, throat or upper chest surgery have an increased risk of vocal cord nerve damage. At times, breathing tubes are used in surgery in order to help you breathe if you are having any serious respiratory trouble.
Neurological Problems – Those people suffering from neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis are more likely to develop vocal cord weaknesses.

Voice therapy and surgery are two of the most common treatments for vocal cord paralysis.


Read more articles on Vocal Cord Paralysis.

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