Vocal cord dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction.

What is this?  Feels like throat tightness, not lung/chest tightness.  Starts less than 5 minutes into exercise and recovers within 5-10 minutes from stopping exercise.  These patients do not benefit from beta-agonist (albuterol) challenge like those who have exercise-induced asthma do.  Predisposing factors: allergic symptoms, anxiety, reflux.  Most common patient is a type A teenage female.

How to evaluate?

  • A laryngoscope during exercise.  Yep, this is just like it sounds…This is when the patient rides a bike hard or runs on a treadmill fast and then a scope is introduced into the mouth and down the throat to look at the vocal cords.  The vocal cords SHUT instead of open (!) in vocal cord dysfunction.  This is counterintuitive as during exercise, the athlete needs MORE air.  This makes it difficult for the athlete to inhale as much air as their body would like.


  • Speech therapy!  This is really the mainstay of treatment to help the vocal cords from shutting when they should be open.,
  • treat reflux as if stomach acid comes up the esophagus, the vocal cords may shut in response to this acidic insult to the cords,
  • behavioral treatment to help decrease anxiety.img_2402

About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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