If you’re a fan of music artists like Adele, Sam Smith, or Shakira, chances are you’ve heard of vocal cord lesions. The most common types of vocal cord lesions are benign non-cancerous nodules (or nodes), cysts, and polyps. These growths or bumps are found on the vocal cords causing vibrations that lead to hoarseness, low-pitched voice, breathy voice, and for vocalists, lost of vocal range. Each of these lesions can range in severity of voice disturbances, depending on where they are located on the vocal cords and their size.
Vocal cord nodules, cysts and polyps are usually a result of voice misuse and overuse. This can include speaking excessively, screaming or yelling, excessive speaking while sick, or longtime exposure to irritants like cigarettes or chemical fumes. While persistent hoarseness is usually the first sign of a vocal cord lesion, it is not the only symptom. Other signs or symptoms can include voice breaks, frequent throat clearing, inability to sing in high or soft voice, vocal fatigue and other similar changes in voice quality.
While these lesions can be a major inconvenience, especially for vocal performers, they are not serious if treated timely and appropriately. Although symptoms may fluctuate, they do not go away on their own. The best treatment for vocal cord lesions is a combination of voice rest, voice therapy, and sometimes microsurgery. In an interview with Telemundo, Dr. Octavio Carreño of South Florida was asked about Shakira’s recent vocal cord issues and his treatment recommendations. He explained that based on what he’d read about Shakira’s condition, he reached the conclusion that the singer had most likely created a hemorrhagic polyp, and at that point, surgery is the best treatment followed by voice rest for a minimum of 3 months. While rest and therapy are used to avoid causing more damage or trauma to the vocal cords, surgery is used to remove the lesions altogether.
Treatment methods for vocal cord lesions are determined by an otolaryngologist, more commonly known as an ENT specialist. An ENT specialist will diagnose the issue and consider the degree of voice limitations caused by the lesions and the patient’s voice demands in order to recommend the appropriate treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of vocal cord lesions, contact Dr. Carreño today to schedule an appointment.