Vocal Cord Growths or Sores

What are vocal cord growths or sores?

Vocal growths or sores on your voice box are called vocal cord growths or sores, or vocal cord lesions.

What is the cause?

There are 2 main kinds of vocal cord lesions: growths and leukoplakia.

  • Growths are polyps and nodules that may occur in several situations: straining the voice; hypothyroidism; radiation therapy in the neck; or long-lasting sinusitis with drainage, cough, and frequent throat clearing.
  • Leukoplakia refers to thick, white patches of abnormal tissue, often caused by chemical irritation from tobacco smoke or alcohol.

Overuse of the voice is a frequent cause of the growths. A common example of vocal abuse is the frequent loud speaking or yelling used by teachers, coaches, preachers, actors, cheerleaders, and other public speakers.

Smoking is a common cause of leukoplakia.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptom of polyps and nodules is usually hoarseness, which occurs when the growth or growths interfere with the flow of air past the vocal cords.

Leukoplakia commonly causes no symptoms. Over time it can silently develop into cancer of the voice box, especially if you both smoke and drink alcohol.

How are they diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will use a viewing instrument with a mirror to examine your vocal cords. The instrument allows your provider to see past the back of the tongue.

If you have leukoplakia, you may have a biopsy of the white patches. For a biopsy your healthcare provider will numb your throat and take a sample of tissue from the white patches. The tissue will be examined under a microscope and checked for cancer.

How are they treated?

If you have polyps or nodules, your healthcare provider will advise you to change the way you use your voice and may refer you to a speech therapist.

If you are a smoker, your provider will advise you to stop smoking right away and to rest your voice.

Some growths require biopsy or surgical removal. If you have surgery, your provider will give you an anesthetic before the procedure.

If you have leukoplakia, you will be checked for cancer.

How long will the effects last?

Your voice may or may not return to normal. Your recovery depends on the cause of the problem, how severe it was before treatment, and how it is treated. If you are a smoker or you drink alcohol, it also depends on whether you have stopped smoking or drinking. Your healthcare provider will tell you how long to rest your voice and what improvement or changes, if any, to expect.

How can I take care of myself?

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

  • Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Rest your voice as much as you can, and avoid situations that strain your voice, such as shouting and cheering at sporting events.
  • Use pain relievers and throat sprays as instructed by your healthcare provider when you must use your voice.

How can I prevent vocal cord growths or sores?

Avoid smoking, overuse of alcohol (more than 1 drink a day for women and more than 2 drinks a day for men), voice abuse, and chemical irritants.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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