Depending on your diagnosis, Mayo Clinic doctors will recommend one or more treatments:
- Rest, liquids and voice therapy. Like any other part of the body, the vocal cords need regular rest and fluids. Mayo Clinic speech pathology specialists can teach you how to use your voice more efficiently through voice therapy, how to properly clear your throat and how much liquid to drink.
- Allergy treatments. If an allergy is creating too much mucus in your throat, Mayo Clinic allergists can identify the allergy's cause and provide treatment.
- Smoking cessation. If your voice problem is the result of smoking, the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center offers programs to help address tobacco use.
- Medications. Several medications are available for treating voice disorders. Depending on the cause of your voice disorder, you may need medication to reduce inflammation, treat gastroesophageal reflux or prevent blood vessel regrowth. Medications can be taken orally, injected into the vocal cords or applied topically during surgery.
- Removal of lesions. Noncancerous lesions (polyps, nodules and cysts) on the vocal cords can form after months or years of voice misuse. Sometimes they occur in combination with respiratory infections. They may need to be surgically removed. Doctors at Mayo Clinic remove noncancerous, precancerous and cancerous lesions — including recurrent respiratory papillomatosis and white patches (leukoplakia) — using microsurgery, carbon-dioxide laser surgery, and when appropriate, the newest laser treatments such as potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) laser treatment. KTP is a state-of-the-art therapy that treats lesions on the vocal cords by cutting off the blood supply to the lesion, allowing the lesion to be removed while preserving the maximum amount of underlying tissue. At Mayo Clinic, most of these surgeries are performed endoscopically through your mouth, so you won't have any external scarring.
- Botox injections. Injections of tiny amounts of purified botulinum toxin into your neck skin can decrease muscle spasms or abnormal movements if you have a neurological movement disorder that affects the vocal muscles of the larynx (spasmodic dysphonia). Botox injections can relax muscles for up to five months.
Sometimes one vocal cord may stop moving (become paralyzed). If you have one paralyzed vocal cord, you might often complain of hoarseness. You might also complain of choking when you drink liquids, but rarely have trouble swallowing solid foods. Sometimes the problem goes away with time. If not, one of two procedures can be used to push the paralyzed vocal cord closer to the middle of the windpipe so that the vocal cords can meet and vibrate closer together. This improves the voice and allows the larynx to close when you swallow. Treatments include:
- Fat or collagen injection. Body fat or synthetic collagen is injected, either through your mouth or the skin on your neck, to add bulk to the paralyzed vocal cord or to treat vocal cord weakness. The material fills the space next to your vocal cord and pushes it closer to your other vocal cord, allowing them to vibrate more closely together.
- Thyroplasty. A small opening is created in the cartilage from the outside of your voice box. The doctor inserts an implant through the opening and pushes it against the paralyzed vocal cord, moving it closer to your other vocal cord.
Read more about vocal cord paralysis treatment and allergies at MayoClinic.com.