Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction | Tampa General Hospital

Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction 

Paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction is a condition that impedes someone’s ability to breathe. During normal breathing, your vocal cords open during inhalation, allowing oxygen to pass into the trachea (windpipe). Paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction (PVCD) is characterized by the constricting of the vocal cords during inhalation, narrowing the passage of air and making it difficult to breathe. This condition usually occurs in people over the age of 8 and is often mistaken for asthma. 

What Causes Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction? 

Generally, paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction comes and goes in waves. There are a number of things that can trigger a PVCD episode, many of which are similar to factors associated with asthma, including: 

  • Exercise 
  • Exposure to fumes and other strong odors 
  • Secondhand cigarette smoke 
  • Postnasal drip 
  • Allergies 
  • Upper respiratory infections 

What Symptoms Are Associated With Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction? 

Patients suffering from paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction often experience: 

  • Trouble with breathing 
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Stridor (high-pitched sounds during breathing) 
  • A frequent need to cough or clear the throat 

Other symptoms that may be greater causes for concern include: 

  • Faintness 
  • Changes in skin color (particularly in the lips and hands) 
  • Feeling lethargic 

How is Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction Diagnosed? 

An otolaryngologist can diagnose a patient with paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction through a procedure known as a laryngoscopy. This diagnostic test is only effective in identifying PVCD if the patient is showing symptoms of the condition during the examination. However, diagnosis is also possible after the otolaryngologist learns about the patient’s clinical history. 

How is Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction Treated? 

The team of otolaryngologists at Tampa General Hospital are dedicated to providing world-class treatment to individuals with paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction.  

Treatment options may include: 

  • Speech therapy – Generally the first course of treatment for PVCD, speech therapy includes a number of exercises that focus on a patient’s ability to improve control over his or her throat and breathing. These exercises are typically performed while the patient isn’t experiencing any symptoms, so they know what do to when an episode occurs. 
  • Psychiatric therapy – The services of certain mental health specialists such as a psychologist may be used in helping alleviate a patient’s fears or other concerns that may be triggering PVCD.