Vocal Cord Problems

Patient Expert

I just had my swallowing test. It turns out everything is normal, which is good. But, I still have this annoying sensation that my throat is clogged. My doctor may check to see if I have any thyroid issues, which I'm told isn't related to my stroke.

But the swallowing test was really interesting. I sat in this radiology room, where I could see a live x-ray of my upper torso. I could actually see everything I was swallowing from my mouth all the way down my esophagus. The things I had to swallow weren't too appetizing. One was this milky white liquid. It was the consistency of water, but had a mint flavor.

The next thing I swallowed was a cookie. It was really plain, but not horrible. Then the last thing was a white substance that was squeeze out of a tube into a spoon. It was really like really thick toothpaste, but it tasted like marshmallows. I think that was the most disgusting of the three.

While I didn't have any problems, the test can be used to check stroke patients for swallowing issues. One thing that is common among stroke patients is having a paralyzed vocal cord.

A throat specialist, or otolaryngologist can actually check this through a different procedure. The procedure entails the doctor spraying a numbing solution down your throat. After your throat is numb, he will then use an endoscope, a tube with a light at the end, to look directly into the throat at the vocal cords. I had this procedure done twice. It's not that enjoyable, but not as bad as I thought it would be.

But vocal cord paralysis can be caused by several ways. Some of those ways are head trauma, stroke, neck injury or tumor. People who have vocal cord paralysis can notice a change in their voice quality and discomfort from vocal straining. Damage to both vocal cords is rare, but does happen. In this case, people will have difficulty breathing.

There are several ways to treat vocal cord paralysis. One is surgery. In some cases, though, the voice will return without treatment within the first year after damage. So, doctors will wait to do surgery at least a year to be sure the voice doesn't recover on its own. During this year, patients can undergo voice therapy. This involves exercises to strengthen the vocal cords or improve breath control.