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Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) occurs when the vocal cords do not open correctly when breathing. Instead of the vocal cords opening up when a person breathes in and out, the vocal cords slightly close. This makes it difficult to get air into or out of the lungs. Common symptoms of VCD include difficulty breathing, coughing, throat tightness and noisy breathing. While there is no direct cause of VCD, there are many factors that may trigger it, such as post-nasal drip, strong odors, or acid reflux (GERD). Commonly, VCD is misdiagnosed as asthma. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic cough or throat clearing
  • Throat tightness
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Voice changes

Causes

There are many different possible causes of vocal cord dysfunction. VCD may be caused by:

  • Allergies
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Strong odors or fumes
  • Acid reflux (GERD)
  • Exercise
  • Upper respiratory infection (cold)

Treatment

The main treatment for VCD is speech therapy techniques that will help one learn how to control their vocal cords. Strong emotions and stress can also trigger VCD, so it is important to understand how to manage stress. For further treatment, a professional may treat what is triggering a person’s VCD, such as allergies, infection, or acid reflux.

Many allergy-related symptoms can be managed with over the counter medicines, prescription medications, and environmental avoidance strategies if the allergies are known. With allergy skin testing and/or blood testing, we can discover hidden triggers, confirm suspected triggers, and provide additional treatments, including immunotherapy if appropriate.

If you suspect you are experiencing VCD, contact Northeast Allergy, Asthma & Immunology today to schedule your appointment for an evaluation.

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