Your voice box (larynx) is made of cartilage, muscle and mucous membranes located at the top of your windpipe (trachea) and the base of your tongue. Sound is created when your vocal cords vibrate. This vibration comes from air moving through the larynx, bringing your vocal cords closer together. Your vocal cords also help close your voice box when you swallow, preventing you from inhaling food or liquid.
If your vocal cords become inflamed, develop growths or become paralyzed, they can't work properly, and you may develop a voice disorder.
Some common voice disorders include:
- Neurological voice disorders (spasmodic dysphonia, pronounced spaz-MOD-ik dis-FO-ne-uh)
- Polyps, nodules or cysts on the vocal cords (noncancerous lesions)
- Precancerous and cancerous lesions
- Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (pap-ih-loe-muh-TOE-sis)
- Vocal cord paralysis or weakness
- White patches (leukoplakia, pronounced loo-ko-PLAY-key-uh)
Many factors can contribute to a voice disorder, including:
- Drinking alcohol
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Illnesses, such as colds or upper respiratory infections
- Improper throat clearing over a long time
- Neurological disorders
- Psychological stress
- Scarring from neck surgery or from trauma to the front of the neck
- Throat dehydration
- Thyroid problems
- Voice misuse or overuse
Read more about laryngitis, leukoplakia, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), throat cancer and vocal cord paralysis at MayoClinic.com.