Vocal cord dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), also known as paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM) or inducible laryngeal obstruction (ILO), is the abnormal closing of the vocal folds (also known as vocal cords) when you breathe in or out.  VCD can be triggered by exercise, airborne irritants, respiratory infections, reflux, allergies, stress, or can occur without a known cause.  Often misdiagnosed as asthma, VCD can also occur in conjunction with asthma.  Treatment for VCD typically is completed with a specialized speech-language pathologist. 

High school athlete with vocal cord dysfunction

Common symptoms of VCD include:

  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty getting air in (or out)
  • throat tightness
  • chest tightness
  • stridor, wheezing, or harsh breathing sounds
  • asthma and allergy medicine does not provide significant relief of breathing difficulty

Exercise induced paradoxical vocal fold motion (EI-PVFM)

A common subgroup of this breathing difficulty is exercise induced paradoxical vocal fold motion (EI-PVFM).  These are often highly competitive athletes, although this can occur with anyone attempting to exercise.  

Watch and listen as Catherine describes the symptoms she feels from merely walking with her mouth open.

Now watch as she completes a 6 minute mile using the techniques she learned in therapy. 

Cough occurs frequently with VCD and can be the primary symptom.  Erin has VCD with cough, as well as vocal nodules.  Vocal nodules are benign (noncancerous) growths and are typically associated with vocal overuse and a hoarse voice.  Voice therapy can be very effective in treating vocal nodules, in addition to VCD and the associated cough.

We help people return to normal daily routines.  We help athletes reach their full potential.  Please contact our office if you have questions or would like help with this frustrating problem.

Other useful videos about VCD can be found on my YouTube channel and here:

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