Your vocal cords are more important than you may think. The ability to speak is just one of the functions your vocal cords provide. Understanding their duties and importance can help you keep them healthy. That’s why the healthcare professionals at ENT New York are giving you a closer look at your vocal cords.
What are vocal cords?
Your vocal cords, often referred to as vocal folds, are smooth folds of tissue found in your larynx, or voice box. These muscle tissues have three important functions:
- Protect your lungs and airways
- Manage air flow into your lungs
- Produce sound
Without the “check points” your vocal cords provide, breathing can become labored and your risk of choking increases.
How vocal cords work
The tissues that make up the vocal cords stretch across the top of the trachea — or windpipe — and are surrounded by the thyroid cartilage. The vocal cords, paired with the supporting cartilage and muscles, form the larynx, which serves as a stop-gap between the airway and esophagus.
The vocal folds open so you can breathe and close when you swallow to prevent any food from getting into your lungs. This process also manages air flow into your lungs.
The way your vocal cords produce sound is quite fascinating. They’re covered by a thin layer of mucous membrane, called mucosa. When you talk, your larynx moves your vocal cords together, putting them in an almost closed position. Air then expels out from your lungs and goes through the larynx, causing your vocal cords to vibrate. As the vibrations travel, the upper part of your throat changes the sound, and voila — you speak.
Vocal cord disorders
If your vocal cords don’t move properly, they can’t perform their duties. The inability to function properly is referred to as a vocal cord disorder, and can be further classified as vocal fold immobility. This condition can be unilateral, affecting a single vocal cord, or bilateral, affecting both vocal cords.
Some common vocal cord disorders include:
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Vocal nodules
- Vocal polyps
These conditions are treatable, and even preventable. In most cases, vocal cord disorders arise from the misuse or abuse of one’s voice. Symptoms can include:
- Changes in your voice, such as raspiness, breathiness, or hoarseness
- Trouble swallowing
- Choking or coughing, particularly after eating or drinking
- Difficulty coughing
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, or have concerns about your vocal cord health, come in for a voice/throat evaluation with our expert ENT, Dr. Vandana Kumra. During the exam, Dr. Kumra looks at your throat and vocal cords with a laryngoscope, a thin, flexible scope equipped with a light and camera. Once she diagnoses the problem, Dr. Kumra determines the treatment that works best for you. With treatment, vocal rest, and proper use of your voice, your vocal cords can be healthy again.
Your vocal cords do a lot to keep you healthy. Why not return the favor? To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kumra at our New York, New York, office, give us a call or book an appointment online today.