Speech Pathology Voice Disorders (Vocal Cord Dysfunction)

What is vocal cord dysfunction?

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) is an abnormal closing of the vocal cords when they should remain open. Normal airways are wide open so the air can go in and out easily.

Common signs of Vocal Cord Dysfunction

  • Frequent coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Throat tightness
  • Feeling like the air "can't get in"
  • Hoarse voice
  • Wheezing (a musical whistling sound with breathing)
  • Stridor (squeaky noise in the throat)

What to do if you suspect your child might have Vocal Cord Dysfunction:

If you suspect your child might have Vocal Cord Dysfunction, talk to your primary care physician about your concerns. Your physician can refer your child to a lung specialist at Children's Mercy (pulmonologist or a doctor who specializes in Asthma and Allergy, or both). Speech-Language Pathologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics provide evaluation and treatment for VCD. Early identification and treatment is important to helping your child.

How is Vocal Cord Dysfunction diagnosed?

Diagnosis of vocal cord dysfunction may require appointments with several physicians or health care providers to rule out medical concerns. The physician will take an in-depth medical history and ask specific questions related to your child's breathing difficulties. The physician may also order breathing tests, x-rays, or an endoscopy. Sometimes, the diagnosis will be confirmed when your child is referred to the speech-language pathologist (SLP). , The SLP will also review medical history, social history and your child's learning needs and performs a series of exercises/treatments with your child to validate the diagnosis.

How is Vocal Cord Dysfunction treated?

After testing, if the speech language pathologist (SLP) agrees that your child has vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), the SLP provides education about the vocal cords and demonstrates how they open and close. Then, the SLP then teaches your child how to do the following:

  • Know the signs and symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction.
  • Breathe correctly with full diaphragm.
  • Relax the chest, neck, face, shoulders.
  • Learn to "Swallow-breathe" before, during and after vocal cord dysfunction.
  • Practice to make diaphragm breathing and swallow-breathing automatic and easy.
  • Provide home practice materials to master the news ways to keep the vocal cords open.

The Kreamer Family Resource Center at CMH can help families with web-based resources about vocal cord dysfunction.


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