Diseases affecting the voice

Cancer: Symptoms include voice change, chronic sore throat, swallowing difficulty or restricted breathing. Treatment depends upon size and location of the tumor, whether it has metastasized, and patient age and health.

Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis: This uncurable virus provokes wart-like growths in the vocal tract. Untreated, the lesions can increase in size and bulk until function is severely impaired. Standard treatment is periodic laser vaporization.

Endocrine Dysfunction: A hoarse voice and reduction of pitch range may signal hypothyroidism. Blood samples determine hormonal imbalances. Treatment usually includes medication.

Nerve or muscle system diseases include vocal tremor; vocal fold paralysis; and spasmodic dysphonia (uncontrollable squeezing of laryngeal muscles). SD is treated with periodic injections of botulinum toxin into the problem muscles.

Trauma's impact on the larynx

Vocal fold scarring: Poorly performed surgery is the most common source of vocal fold scarring. This can result in chronic hoarseness, double pitch in the upper singing pitch range and limitations of vocal capabilities.

Although voice building and conditioning can reversed this condition to some degree, they will not restore normal mucosal vibration.
Bodily injuries: Initial diagnosis of most bodily injuries occurs in a hospital emergency room. Voice-producing structures may be crushed or otherwise damaged. Injuries involving the larynx will most likely be evaluated in the outpatient office of an otolaryngologist.

The goal of all traumatic injuries is to preserve functions as near to normal as possible.

Vocal overload

Laryngitis: This is inflammation or swelling of the vocal folds caused by excessive use of the voice, infections, or irritants. The vocal folds — in a swollen state — cannot vibrate normally, sounding raspy, breathy and hoarse.

Nodules: Small callous-like growths on the vocal cords result when the vocal folds are forced together harshly over a long period of time, resulting in breathy, raspy and low-pitched voice. Vocal rest and voice therapy are most often prescribed.

Polyps: Similar to vocal nodules, but nodules are more like callouses and polyps like blisters. Voices are low-pitched, hoarse and breathy.

Contact ulcers: Less common, these result from reflux disease or forceful vocal fold closure. Ulcers may result from frequent harsh throat clearing.

Cysts: These resemble tiny "skin tags" in the vocal fold, causing hoarseness and loss of high pitch ranges.

Long-term irritants

Reinke's edema: Also known as smoker's polyps, these growths result in lower vocal pitch range and thickened voice quality.

Women with smoker's polyps may find themselves being called "Sir" on the telephone.

On occasion these grow large enough to restrict the airway.

While smoking cessation helps stop polyp growth, normal vocal capabilities may never be attained.