What is it?

Vocal cord paralysis is a condition that affects how the vocal cords work. People who suffer from the condition can’t control the muscles that open and close the vocal cords. Their inability to control these muscles results from nerve damage. Several diseases and conditions can cause this type of nerve damage.

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Signs & symptoms

Signs and symptoms of vocal cord paralysis may include:
- A breathy quality to the voice
- Hoarseness
- Noisy breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of vocal pitch
- Choking or coughing while swallowing food, drink, or saliva
- The need to take frequent breaths while speaking
- Inability to speak loudly
- Loss of your gag reflex
- Ineffective coughing
- Frequent throat clearing


A diagnosis of vocal cord paralysis involves a comprehensive medical history and questioning about symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, extensive tests might be necessary:
- Imaging studies: An MRI or CT scan shows detailed images of the brain, throat, vocal cords, voice box, thyroid gland, and chest.
- Laryngoscopy: inserting a long, thin tube into the nose to examine the throat. The flexible tube has a camera on end. Images from the camera appear on a monitor. Images of the voice
box and vocal cords will be shown.
- Laryngeal electromyography (LEMG): This test measures how the nerves control the muscles in the voice box. It evaluates and records the electrical impulses of the muscles.


Treatment of vocal cord paralysis depends on the cause, the severity of symptoms, and the time from the onset of symptoms. Treatment may include voice therapy, bulk injections, surgery, or a combination of treatments.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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