Skip to main content

What Causes Vocal Cord Paralysis?

Vocal cord paralysis can have a significant impact on your ability to speak and breathe properly. Situated in the heart of New York City, board-certified otolaryngologist and skilled surgeon,  Mathew W. Shawl, MD, specializes in helping individuals facing voice-related challenges. 

Whether vocal cord paralysis stems from a stroke, injury, or accident, Dr. Shawl conducts thorough evaluations and designs personalized treatment strategies to address your specific needs. In the meantime, we’ll help you explore the underlying factors behind this condition and treatment options to improve your quality of life.


Let’s get started!

Understanding vocal cord paralysis 

Vocal cords, often called vocal folds, are flexible muscular bands in the larynx (voice box) within the throat. They play a vital role in speech, breathing and swallowing by opening and closing to regulate airflow in and out of the lungs and protect the lungs from aspiration of food, beverages and secrestons. Vibrations of the vocal cords produce sound, which the articulatory system shapes into speech.

Vocal cord paralysis, a condition where one or both cords lose mobility, can significantly impact

your ability to speak and breathe properly. Normal vocal cord function involves dynamic movement. When breathing, your cords stay apart, allowing smooth airflow. During speech or singing, they come together, creating tension that controls pitch and volume, enabling effective communication.

Common causes of vocal cord paralysis 

Now that you have a basic understanding of vocal cords and their importance in communication, let's explore what can go wrong with these intricate structures. 

Neurological damage

Vocal cord paralysis can result from damage to the nerves that control the muscles of the larynx. Conditions such as stroke, brain injury, or neurodegenerative diseases may disrupt the neural signals necessary for vocal cord movement. When the nerves can't communicate effectively with the vocal cord muscles, paralysis may occur.

Surgical complications 

Surgical procedures that involve the neck, chest, or upper airway can inadvertently damage the

nerves or structures associated with the vocal cords. Thyroid surgery, lung surgery, and certain cardiovascular operations are examples where surgical complications can lead to vocal cord paralysis.

Trauma injury 

Physical trauma to the neck or chest, such as a car accident or a direct blow to the throat, can damage the vocal cords or their associated nerves. Trauma-induced vocal cord paralysis can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the injury.

Idiopathic causes

In some cases, the exact cause of vocal cord paralysis remains unknown (idiopathic). Idiopathic vocal cord paralysis often occurs spontaneously without an apparent triggering event or underlying medical condition.

Treatment options 

Having explored the potential causes and risk factors of vocal cord paralysis, it's essential to understand how this condition presents itself and the common symptoms you or a loved one may experience.

Voice therapy 

Voice therapy is often the initial approach to managing vocal cord paralysis, particularly when the cause is related to neurological issues. Dr. Shawl works with you to improve vocal cord function, breathing, and speech.

Surgical interventions 

Surgical treatments are often necessary for addressing vocal cord paralysis. These options

include vocal cord injections using substances like hyaluronic acid to augment paralyzed cords, reinnervation procedures to restore nerve function in vocal cord muscles, and thyroplasty, a surgery reshaping the laryngeal cartilage to improve vocal cord closure.

Rehabilitation and support 

Rehabilitation often plays a vital role in the recovery process. Speech therapists, respiratory therapists, and support groups can assist you with vocal cord paralysis in adapting to your condition and regaining communication skills.

Vocal cord paralysis is a complex condition with various potential causes, including neurological damage, surgical complications, trauma, or idiopathic factors. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking prompt medical evaluation is crucial for diagnosis and tailored treatment. Whether through voice therapy, surgery, or rehabilitation, there are options available to improve the quality of your life.

If you’re ready to learn more about how to navigate this condition effectively, don’t hesitate to contact the office of Matthew W. Shawl, MD, to book a consultation today and get the relief you deserve.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Why You Keep Getting Sinusitis

Why You Keep Getting Sinusitis

If you’re tired of the sinusitis cycle, we don’t blame you. Keep reading to discover why it keeps coming back and how to break free.