What is Dysphonia?
Dysphonia is a pathological condition of the vocal cords or the voice box in which an individual has a problem with his or her voice. Dysphonia has numerous causes but most of them are benign and can be easily treated.
Coming to the anatomy of how an understandable voice is produced by the body, we know that the brain is the control center of our body. The brain sends signal to the larynx through the laryngeal nerves and along with the larynx with coordinated movements of the tongue, lower part of the jaw and the soft palate a voice is produced. This whole process is called articulation. Any dysfunction in one of these processes can cause distortion of voice or Dysphonia.
What are the Causes of Dysphonia?
Some of the causes of Dysphonia are:
- Laryngeal inflammation for a short period of time or chronically can cause Dysphonia
- Lumps on the vocal cords can also cause dysphonia.
- Any sort of trauma to the larynx or the voice box either during some type of surgery or any other type of trauma may result in Dysphonia.
- Vocal Cord Paralysis: Certain surgical procedure especially those of the thyroid, heart or lungs can damage the nerves of the larynx resulting in Dysphonia.
- Psychological: Stress also plays a role in causing Dysphonia. People under a lot of stress at work or at home or going through an emotional trauma may end up having Dysphonia.
- Common Cold: This can also cause temporary hoarseness of voice or Dysphonia.
What are the Symptoms of Dysphonia?
An individual suffering from Dysphonia may find that he or she is unable to speak loudly. A singer is unable to sing in high pitch. There may be persistent dryness of the throat. The individual will have persistent sore throat. The individual may also experience persistent heartburn.
When Should an Individual Contact a Medical Professional Due to Dysphonia?
An individual who has a hoarse voice for over a month or so needs to consult an ENT specialist for inspection of the larynx and identify a cause for their hoarseness or Dysphonia. More serious conditions may need to be ruled out if Dysphonia is accompanied by swallowing difficulties, persistent earaches, unintentional weight loss, and hemoptysis as these indicate a more serious medical condition at play here.
What is the Treatment for Dysphonia?
The treatment for Dysphonia is four pronged and includes conservative approach to begin with followed by speech therapy, medications, and then if all these are ineffective then surgery.
Conservative Treatment for Dysphonia: This is the first line of treatment for Dysphonia. This is done by identifying a cause for the Dysphonia such as stress, smoking, alcohol and the like. The patient is recommended to drink plenty of water to keep the throat wet. The patient is recommended to stay silent and not attempt to speak for a couple of days to allow the larynx some rest and allowing it time to heal. During this time period the patient use notes for communication.
Speech Therapy for Dysphonia: This is a vital aspect of treatment of Dysphonia. A speech therapist formulates a treatment plan for the patient, although it may take a few weeks for the patient to see improvement. Speech therapy is best for those people who have Dysphonia due to some sort of emotional trauma, grief, or have medical conditions like vocal cord nodules causing Dysphonia. As the speech therapy treatment takes time to take effect hence the patient needs to be kept motivated and have patience in order to get best results from speech therapy and get rid of Dysphonia.
Medications to Treat Dysphonia: Conditions like laryngitis or inflammation of the larynx are resulting in Dysphonia are usually caused by a virus. These are treated with bedrest, regular dose of paracetamol and hot water gargles are best to treat this condition. Sinus inflammation causing Dysphonia are treated by nasal sprays to calm down the inflammation and treat Dysphonia.
Surgery to Treat Dysphonia: This is done if Dysphonia is caused due to some form of growth or tumor in the vocal cords which cannot be taken care of conservatively. The procedure done for removal of this tumor is called as microlaryngoscopy and in this procedure a telescope is utilized first to magnify the area where the tumor is and then the tumor is removed to get rid of the symptoms of Dysphonia. Surgery is also used for other conditions if all the other measures have failed to get rid of Dysphonia.