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Birmingham, AL | ENT Specialists
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Asthma Treatment Not Working? You May Have a Vocal Cord Disorder

Do You Have A Vocal Cord Disorder?

If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, you likely received treatments like long-term medications and fast-acting inhalers. And while these treatments are designed to help you breathe easier, they sometimes don’t provide the results they should. Asthma can be scary and frustrating, especially if your symptoms aren’t alleviated with prescribed remedies.

You may have a vocal cord disorder if you haven’t found relief from your asthma treatments. Paradoxical vocal fold motion disorder (PVFMD) is very common but isn’t well known. It causes difficulty breathing, like asthma, but affects the vocal cords instead of the lungs. Because symptoms are similar, receiving an accurate diagnosis can be challenging. In this blog, the experts at ExcelENT discuss signs, symptoms, and treatment for PVFMD, so you can find the relief you deserve.

What Is Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion Disorder?

Paradoxical vocal fold motion disorder (PVFMD) is a condition that affects the vocal folds. The vocal folds are located in the larynx, also called the voice box. These folds open and close depending on whether you’re breathing or talking. When you’re talking, the vocal folds close together to produce sounds.

On the other hand, during breathing, the vocal folds stay open to allow air to pass through the airway. In cases of PVFMD, the vocal folds close during breathing. Since air can’t pass through like usual, patients with PVFMD feel a sensation of troubled breathing and suffocation.

What Causes Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion Disorder?

Unfortunately, the causes of PVFMD are mainly unknown. However, some known stressors can cause episodes of PVFMD, including exposure to strong odors, stress, lying flat, temperature changes, and exercise.

Acid reflux and stress may also be associated with PVFMD. If acid travels far enough into the airway, it can irritate the vocal cords, which may cause them not to function correctly. Similarly, stress can cause the larynx to tighten, leading to issues with the vocal folds. In the field of speech-language pathology, research is ongoing to understand more about PVFMD.

What Are Symptoms of Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion Disorder?

People with PVFMD can experience symptoms in a range of severity, and episodes can last from minutes to hours. Along with troubled breathing, some patients experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing in
  • A sensation of a constricted throat, as if breathing through a straw
  • Coughing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rough sounding voice
  • Noisy inhale (stridor)

Often, many people are diagnosed with asthma when they are actually experiencing PVFMD. Asthma causes the airway to narrow and tighten because of extra mucus, and there is typically inflammation at the bottom of the airway. Because both conditions focus on difficulty breathing, it can be difficult to acquire an accurate diagnosis.

Asthma patients will find relief with asthma-specific therapy, like inhalers, whereas PVFMD patients will not because the symptoms and causes are different. For example, many patients with PVFMD feel discomfort and tightening in their neck, throat, and upper chest, while asthma patients usually only feel tightness in their chest. One method of differentiation is that those with asthma often wheeze while breathing out, compared to those with PVFMD, who often exhibit a noisy inhale.

How Do You Treat Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion Disorder?

To diagnose PVFMD, other conditions must be ruled out. A laryngoscopy to examine the vocal folds will rule out other possible causes of airway obstruction. Similarly, how you describe your symptoms will also help your physician with diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with PVFMD, there are treatments to ease your symptoms. If your PVFMD is associated with acid reflux, you can take medication for your acid reflux, which can alleviate your symptoms of troubled breathing. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can teach proper breathing techniques to open your airway during episodes of PVFMD. These techniques are called respiratory retraining and are tailored to your specific triggers for ample relief.

Find Relief from Troubled Breathing

If you’ve spoken with a physician about your breathing condition and haven’t found a remedy, we understand that seeking care from another provider can be difficult and frustrating. But, if you or your loved one’s asthma treatments aren’t working, don’t wait to find relief. Our speech-language pathologist at ExcelENT works frequently with patients suffering from PVFMD and can help you find a solution that’s right for you.

Your Trusted Voice & Throat Specialists in Birmingham, AL

You can find an accurate diagnosis and treatment at ExcelENT. With years of experience, our SLP, Amy Pittman, can provide remedies that improve your breathing and quality of life. If you’d like to learn more about PVFMD or want to schedule an appointment, call us at (205) 988-6858 or contact us online and breathe easier!

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