Most people have spent an evening yelling at the top of their lungs at an event, only to wake up the next morning sounding hoarse. But misusing or overusing your voice isn’t the only cause of vocal changes.
The sound you make when you speak originates in your voice box or larynx. This area sits at the base of your tongue on top of your windpipe and contains vocal cords that vibrate to create sound. When they can’t vibrate properly, it can cause changes in your voice.
Dr. Vandana Kumra provides in-depth voice and throat evaluations for people throughout Manhattan and the greater New York City metro area at ENT New York. She uses the most advanced technology available to identify the underlying cause of voice changes, whether you have a breathing problem or other issues affecting your throat and larynx.
Once Dr. Kumra understands what’s to blame for your symptoms, she can outline the most effective treatment strategy. And there’s also good news — you can cure many voice disorders with an early diagnosis.
Has your voice started changing suddenly? Here are three common causes.
1. Inflammation and swelling
If you’ve ever had a hoarse, raspy voice or couldn’t speak it all, it may be due to inflammation and swelling of your vocal cords. This can be an acute problem — meaning it comes on suddenly and lasts a few weeks — or a chronic issue that lasts a long time.
This type of voice disorder often occurs in response to:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Chronic cough
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Smoking or alcohol abuse
- Vocal misuse, like shouting
- Certain medications, like inhalers for asthma
While inflammation and swelling may seem harmless, they can lead to serious complications without treatment, including permanent voice loss.
Another common culprit of voice disorders involves extra tissue on the vocal cords. There are several types of growths, and they can develop in response to illness, injury, cancer, or chronic inflammation and swelling.
Types of vocal cord growths include:
- Blisters (polyps)
- Fluid-filled sacs (cysts)
- Ward-like lumps (papilloma)
- Callus-like bumps (nodules)
- Patches of damaged tissue (lesions or scar tissue)
It’s also possible for a band of tissue to grow between the vocal cords — a growth referred to as a web.
3. Nerve problems
In addition to physical issues interfering with vocal cord vibration, you can also develop voice disorders because of nerve issues controlling these functions.
Examples of conditions that can impact nerves in your vocal cords include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Huntington disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
You can also sustain nerve damage from surgery or chronic inflammation of the larynx.
Diagnosing and treating voice disorders
These are just a few causes of voice changes, so working with an expert is essential to reach an accurate diagnosis.
During your voice and throat evaluation at ENT New York, Dr. Kumra discusses her symptoms and uses a tiny mirror to look down your throat. Based on what she sees, she might recommend a laryngoscopy. This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a flexible scope in your mouth so Dr. Kumra can examine your throat and vocal cords.
In addition to a laryngoscopy, Dr. Kumra could perform additional tests, like measuring the electrical impulses controlling your voice box or assessing irregularities in the sound it produces.
Based on your diagnosis, Dr. Kumra could recommend a variety of treatments. Sometimes, resolving voice disorders is as simple as making some lifestyle changes to rest and protect your vocal cords. Other times, medications can treat an underlying condition triggering your symptoms.
Dr. Kumra can also remove growths with minimally invasive surgical techniques requiring tiny incisions or no incisions at all.
Has your voice changed suddenly? Early diagnosis and treatment can provide the best outcomes. Schedule a voice and throat evaluation with Vandana Kumra, MD, in New York, New York, by calling 914-867-0399 today.