Vocal nodules are also known as vocal cord nodules. Vocal cords are a set of two muscles inside the throat with a similar structure as the lips. They enable us to produce sounds while talking, singing, etc., by regulating the amount of air entering the cord from the lungs. Vocal nodules can develop on both the cords or on any one of them. The nodules cause a lot of discomfort but are not harmful. They do not have any fluid content in them and hence, there is no fear of bursting.
How are vocal nodules formed?
Vocal nodules are formed mainly because of improper use of the voice. Whenever we are using our voice, the vocal cords open and close to allow the air from the lungs to enter into it and produce sound. When there is some irritation in the vocal cord, one or both of them become larger than normal. The condition of enlarged cords is known as nodules. As a result, the vocal cords do not open and close properly. This affects the process of conversion of air into audible words, and the symptoms start showing up. There are several causes that can irritate the vocal cords. It can happen after excessive shouting, screaming or coughing. Singing for a long time, allergic reactions in the throat, heartburn, and stress are the other causes of vocal nodules. Children, singers, cheerleaders, auctioneers, and orators are at a higher risk of developing vocal nodules.
Symptoms of vocal cord nodules
At the initial stage, swollen patches of tissues can be observed in the vocal cord region, which later hardens up to form the nodules. It makes the voice harsh, scratchy, and hoarse. In some people, it can delay the process of voice initiation. That means they find that the sound is being produced moments later after talking. It causes a lot of trouble for the singers. The consistency of their voice goes missing due to the presence of the nodules. Even the range of the voice gets affected which makes it difficult for them to sing loudly. When the nodule is growing, there is no pain. Once it is fully grown, it is likely that pain is felt in the neck. It can also cause pain from ear to ear. A lump can be felt inside the throat which prompts the patient to clear the throat frequently. As the size of the nodule increases, even a little talking can make the voice sound tired. Sometimes, people complain about body fatigue as well.
Treatment for vocal nodules
ENT doctors first ascertain the cause and then begin the treatment. To get rid of the symptoms, it is essential that the voice is used properly. In most cases, the nodules go away if the vocal cords are given some rest. Otherwise, doctors try to eliminate the factors which cause irritation to the vocal cords. When the nodules are formed due to excessive or improper use of the voice, voice therapy or speech therapy is recommended. During speech therapy, the patients learn the techniques related to voice pitching and adjustment of the volume. There are also some breathing techniques that can lower the stress exerted upon the vocal cords. Thus, the therapy reduces the chances of any further damage to the cords. Vocal nodules in children, when treated with speech therapy, often yield excellent results. If the cause behind vocal cord irritation is heartburn, then this digestive problem has to be resolved with suitable medicines. In case the nodule turns bigger and takes the shape of a polyp, the only treatment option available is surgery. However, doctors often avoid surgery as nodules can grow over and over again.
If you experience the symptoms of vocal cord nodules quite frequently, then you should take some measures to prevent its recurrence. You should avoid exposure to irritants like smoke or allergens. Do not talk loudly or sing for long hours. Those who smoke should stop smoking completely. Drink plenty of water so that the throat remains hydrated, which in turn, will have a soothing effect on the vocal cords.