Vocal cord polyps are fluid-filled growths that develop on the vocal cord. Polyps are typically caused by improper use or misuse of the voice, or by continual overuse of the voice. While it’s a condition that can be associated with professional singers, polyps on vocal cords can affect anyone who places similar stress on their vocal cords on a regular basis. Treatment usually involves therapy and other non-surgical remedies, although surgery may be necessary if symptoms are persistent or severe.
Why Vocal Cord Polyps Develop
Recurring misuse of the vocal cords is the most common reason why polyps develop on the vocal folds. Hoarseness is often the first noticeable sign that a polyp is present. Patients may also experience difficulty making certain sounds or notice a change in their vocal tone when polyps impede voice production. Symptoms may also include:
- An increased effort to produce the desired vocal sounds
- Persistent throat irritations and recurring hoarseness
- A change in vocal quality, or an inability to sustain tone
What is a Vocal Polyp?
Polyps are abnormal growths that form on the covering of a vocal cord. These fluid-filled growths usually develop slowly. While a single vocal cord may be affected, polyps often develop on both vocal cords. Patients may not notice any issues with polyps until the growths become large enough to irritate nearby tissues and affect voice production.
Non-Surgical Vocal Cord Polyp Treatment
Voice therapy is usually the first treatment recommended to address throat irritation due to vocal cord polyps. Medication may be prescribed to help with irritation of the vocal folds and ease hoarseness.
Surgery for Vocal Cord Polyps
For lesions that are partially obstructing a patient’s airway or not responding well to other treatments, including vocal therapy, surgery may be recommended. Performed under general anesthesia, a small tube called a laryngoscope is placed in the mouth to examine and treat the vocal cords.
Special instruments, including lasers at times, are used to remove the polyp. Follow-up recommendations include initial rest of the vocal cords, meaning avoiding excessive strain, to allow tissues to heal and voice therapy. After treatment, it’s often recommended that patients take steps to minimize the risk of developing additional vocal cord lesions in the future, such as continuing with vocal therapy.