Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8300

At UT Southwestern Medical Center, the Voice Center offers specialized care to diagnose and treat vocal cord growths. Our fellowship-trained laryngologists and speech-language pathologists provide exceptional care to relieve symptoms and improve vocal health.

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Janis Deane, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, performs laryngeal massage.

Comprehensive Treatment for Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

The vocal cords are inside the larynx (voice box) and vibrate to produce sounds such as speaking and singing. The vocal cords can develop lesions (growths) that affect their ability to vibrate properly. These types of growths, all noncancerous, include:

  • Nodules: Symmetric masses that appear in pairs, one on each vocal cord
  • Polyps: Blister-like bumps that can appear on one or both vocal cords
  • Cysts: Fluid-filled sacs that usually appear on one vocal cord

Specialists in our Voice Center are dedicated to providing comprehensive care to diagnose, treat, and manage vocal cord nodules, polyps, and cysts. We focus on personalized care to meet each patient’s specific needs, whether they are singers, performers, or other voice professionals, or people with more routine demands for voice use. Our team works to advance patient care through research to learn more about vocal cord growths and find more effective treatments.

Causes of Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

The causes vary depending on the type of vocal cord growths:

  • Nodules result from repetitive phonotrauma (overuse or improper use of vocal cords).
  • Polyps result from repetitive phonotrauma as well, but they can also occur after a single episode.
  • Cysts develop when vocal cord glands that secrete mucus become clogged; sometimes these are a result of repetitive phonotrauma.

Phonotrauma includes:

  • Vocal misuse: Improper use of the voice, such as speaking or singing too loudly, at an abnormally high or low pitch, or with excessive muscle strain
  • Vocal abuse: Actions that strain or injure the vocal cords, such as excessive talking, screaming, coughing, throat clearing, smoking, or inhaling irritants
  • Vocal overuse: Normal behavior used to excess, such as speaking in a loud environment, speaking or singing for long periods without a break, or whispering

Symptoms of Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

Vocal cord growths can cause symptoms such as:

  • Breathiness
  • Hoarseness
  • Neck pain
  • Rough or scratchy voice
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat

Diagnosis of Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

Our voice care team at UT Southwestern includes fellowship-trained laryngologists and speech-language pathologists who conduct a thorough evaluation. including:

  • Physical exam, with an inspection of the vocal cords
  • Review of personal medical history
  • Discussion of symptoms

Other tests we typically use include:

  • Laryngoscopy: An exam using a narrow tube, either flexible or rigid, with a light and camera, inserted through the nose
  • Videostroboscopy: An exam using a telescope-like camera with a flashing light that provides a magnified, slow-motion view of the vocal cords as they vibrate
  • Sound (acoustic) analysis: Computer analysis that identifies abnormalities in the sounds produced by the vocal cords

Treatment for Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

Treatment options vary depending on the type of growth. Whenever possible, we begin treatment with nonsurgical therapies. Treatment options at UT Southwestern include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as steroids
  • Voice rest to relieve swelling and inflammation
  • Behavioral modification such as smoking cessation, stress reduction, and avoidance of irritants
  • Speech therapy to learn strategies for more efficient voice use and to improve vocal hygiene
  • Microsurgery – sometimes required to remove polyps and cysts
  • Laser surgery (both in-office and in the operating room) – sometimes required to remove polyps

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