Vocal Cord Dysfunction

By | June 10, 2022

A vocal cord dysfunction is a vocal cord disorder. Those affected suffer from sudden shortness of breath.

What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) is a dysfunction of the vocal cords. The term comes from English and stands for vocal cord dysfunction. The vocal cords narrow or close for a short time. This results in an attack of shortness of breath in those affected. There is even a feeling of suffocation or a feeling of fear of death. However, despite its severe symptoms, vocal cord dysfunction is not life-threatening. For chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (cipd), please visit nonprofitdictionary.com.

Since the dysfunction of the vocal cords is still little known, it is often confused with bronchial asthma. As a result, the patient often does not receive appropriate treatment for years. The difference to asthma is a sudden onset of shortness of breath, which can be experienced very severely by those affected.


In earlier years, primarily psychosomatic triggers were blamed as the cause of vocal cord dysfunction. A VCD attack can be caused by psychological stress or stress. But physical causes are also increasingly considered to be the cause of the malfunctioning of the vocal cords. These are mostly reflux symptoms such as acid regurgitation.

The vocal cords are affected by even small amounts of gastric fluid or acid. On the other hand, heartburn over the stomach is of less importance. The vocal cords can also be irritated by the inflow of secretions. Inflammatory secretions from the nose or paranasal sinuses flow down the pharyngeal wall to the vocal cords.

According to experts, the closure of the vocal cords in these cases is an important defense reflex of the body. This prevents harmful liquids from entering the lungs. For reasons that are not clear, the disease VCD arises from the defense mechanism. A drop in the trigger threshold for the final movements of the vocal cords is suspected. Even the smallest stimuli are enough to trigger the narrowing of the airways.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A typical symptom of vocal cord dysfunction is the sudden onset of shortness of breath. It often shows up suddenly from one breath to the next. It is not uncommon for a coughing fit to precede the breathing problems. The extent of a VCD attack varies greatly.

Some patients feel as if they are suffocating, while others only have restricted breathing. This often leads to a significant reduction in quality of life. Just as suddenly as the shortness of breath came, it also disappears again. The seizures usually occur irregularly. A triggering reason cannot be identified. Other possible symptoms can be a feeling of tightness in the throat, sore throat, hoarseness and clearing the throat.

Around two thirds of all VCD patients also suffer from bronchial asthma. In addition to the VCD symptoms, asthma symptoms also appear. This circumstance often makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose the disease with certainty. In addition, medication for asthma has little effect on vocal cord dysfunction.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Diagnosing vocal cord dysfunction is not always easy. The shortness of breath occurs unexpectedly. Indications of the vocal cord disorder can be obtained from the patient’s problems with inhalation. 95 percent of all VCD patients suffer from breathing problems. Endoscopy of the vocal cords is considered the best method for diagnosis.

If the insertion of an endoscope succeeds in triggering a VCD attack, this will reveal the vocal cord closure. Even if the examination fails to induce a seizure, vocal cord dysfunction may well exist.

As a rule, a VCD takes a positive course. Over time, most patients learn how to deal with the vocal cord disorder correctly and find it less dangerous. Sometimes the symptoms can disappear completely.


The vocal cord dysfunction leads to shortness of breath. This occurs very suddenly and unexpectedly and can lead to serious complications and, in the worst case, to the death of the person concerned. A severe cough often precedes the difficulty in breathing. If the breathing difficulties are not solved in time, they can also lead to a loss of consciousness and possibly to another injury.

The seizures are not regular and cannot be predicted, so that the patient’s quality of life is significantly reduced by the vocal cord dysfunction. Furthermore, there is also a strong hoarseness, tachycardia or a foreign body sensation in the throat of the patient. Frequently, no clear diagnosis of the disease can be made, since the symptoms only appear for a short time or very suddenly.

For this reason, early treatment is usually not carried out. Direct treatment is not possible. Those affected may be able to relieve the seizures with the help of various therapies. The use of medication can also have a positive effect on the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of vocal cord dysfunction, the person affected always needs to see a doctor. Further complications can only be prevented by early detection and treatment of the disease, so that a doctor should be consulted at the first sign of vocal cord dysfunction. Early detection of the disease always has a very positive effect on the further course and can also prevent further deterioration of the symptoms.

In the case of vocal cord dysfunction, the doctor should be contacted if the person concerned frequently suffers from shortness of breath that occurs without any particular reason. There is also a severe scratchy throat and heart palpitations. Most patients also show significantly reduced exercise capacity and are often tired. If these symptoms occur over a longer period of time and do not go away on their own, a doctor must be contacted in any case. An internist or general practitioner can be consulted for the initial diagnosis of vocal cord dysfunction . However, further treatment always depends on the cause of the disease.

Treatment & Therapy

The most important part of VCD therapy is to take away the patient’s fear of an attack of respiratory distress. The threat is often perceived far more intensely by those affected than it actually is. In order to get out of shortness of breath quickly, the patient learns special breathing techniques. These are individually adjusted and can even help to avoid a VCD attack completely.

If psychological reasons are the trigger of the vocal cord dysfunction, they must be treated accordingly. The cooperation of the patient is very important. In order to learn the correct breathing technique, the patient undergoes certain breathing exercises. It is advisable to do this even in stressful situations. This makes it easier to adapt to everyday life.

Special breathing massages can be used to relax the respiratory muscles and the muscles of the throat and larynx. Learning phonation exercises is also considered useful. These are important in order to relax the entire vocal musculature in the long term. If the doctor knows the exact causes of the VCD, he has the opportunity to create an individual treatment concept for the patient.

Sometimes the use of proton pump inhibitors is helpful. If the patient also suffers from bronchial asthma, he will receive appropriate asthma treatment. Other important therapy modules are physiotherapy, psychotherapeutic treatment and relaxation therapy. Many patients find VCD therapy difficult. They suffer from concomitant illnesses or are unable to deal with the psychological factors effectively.


There is no specific way to prevent vocal cord dysfunction. Relaxation techniques can be used to prevent a VCD attack. These include progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic training. With these methods, the fear of a new seizure can be better controlled.


After a successfully treated vocal cord dysfunction, certain follow-up measures can help prevent recurrence and reduce the psychological distress associated with vocal cord dysfunction. Stress should be avoided as it can contribute to renewed vocal cord dysfunction. If there are allergies to certain foods, medicines or house dust, these must be treated causally, just like an existing asthma.

A house dust mite allergy can also be treated with appropriate bedding and household hygiene. Patients with pollen allergies should avoid contact with the allergens. Smokers should refrain from this habit as it can also trigger vocal cord dysfunction. This applies in particular if you also have asthma and/or allergies.

Very high physical stress (competitive sport) should be avoided. Instead, moderate endurance sports are advisable, as they have a positive effect on lung and airway function. In addition, exercise helps build self-confidence and reduce the fear of recurrence of vocal cord dysfunction. In addition, breathing and voice exercises help to prevent vocal cord dysfunction in the long term and to curb its subsequent symptoms (vocal cord dysfunction).

If an anxiety disorder develops as a result of the vocal cord dysfunction, this must be treated separately. In addition to anxiolytic drugs and psychoanalytic therapy, behavioral therapy, in which relaxation techniques are learned, can also help. In addition to their anxiolytic and psychotherapeutic effects, these can also help normalize vocal cord function.

You can do that yourself

Vocal Cord Dysfunction can be treated preventively. Under professional guidance, the patient must reduce the fear of a seizure, since the sense of threat outweighs the real threat. Talking to other people affected, for example in internet forums or self-help groups, is also recommended.

If there is a risk of vocal cord dysfunction due to a mental illness, this must first be treated. The patient requires individual therapy, which usually consists of therapeutic measures and drug treatment. In addition, you should exercise regularly. Exercise improves confidence in your own body. If the psychological problems are treated at the same time, well-being can be effectively increased. The actual vocal cord dysfunctions can be treated using various relaxation techniques. Voice and breathing therapy, which can also be implemented in everyday life, is particularly important. Comorbidities must be reported to the doctor and treated promptly.

If the symptoms do not improve with the measures mentioned, a specialist must be consulted. Self-help measures for vocal cord dysfunction are limited to preventing an attack and gradually improving the quality of life.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction