Has your voice begun to sound rough? Has it begun to sound like air coming out of a balloon? Have you been experiencing these symptoms for the past few weeks? If your answer is yes to all three questions, then you may have vocal cord nodules or nodes.
Loosely defined, your vocal cords are the part of your throat, which makes it possible for you to produce sounds. Your vocal cords are two networks of thin smooth muscle that form like lips. They are like the CDATA section of the neck, which regulates the amount of air needed for talking. As air moves from your lungs to your vocal cords, the vocal cords close and open. When the vocal cords are irritated, a part of one cord or both cords may become enlarged as a result. The enlarged part is called a nodule. Since the vocal cords cannot open or close properly anymore, air cannot transform fully into audible words.
Vocal cord nodules are caused by many factors. If you are a sufferer you may have been shouting or screaming too much. Prolonged singing may also play a part in the appearance of these nodules. Singers, orators, auctioneers, and little children (more frequently boys than girls) are particularly at risk for developing vocal cord nodules. Other causes may include (but are not commonly associated with):
- Imitating throaty animal sounds.
- Recent sore throat or too much coughing.
- Allergic reaction.
Usually, vocal cord nodules may appear on one cord or both cords. They do not contain any fluid so they do not burst. They do not cause pain during the growth cycle. For all the trouble it causes, vocal cord nodules are relatively harmless. These nodules may disappear gradually after complete rest and proper voice lessons, which may span 6 months or less, depending on the extent of the nodular network injury. The following tips and notes may also prove helpful:
- Avoid talking loudly.
- Avoid singing too long or at long intervals.
- Drink water as frequently as needed. This can help soothe your throat.
- Avoid smoking (yes, that’s another reason to quit).
- Take caution when the roughness of your voice continues for four months or more, it’s time to tell the doctor.
- Vocal cord nodules do not enlarge your neck. If you suspect any difference to your neck size, tell your doctor immediately. This is one of the early signs of lymph cancer. (It may help to note a cluster of other symptoms you may feel namely: feeling tired all the time, feeling breathless after light exercise, lumps in your groin area, back pain which may also signal Schmorl’s nodule.)
- The doctor may conduct further tests to rule out cancer, so he may get a sample of the nodule.
The treatment for vocal cord nodules is usually long-term so do not be discouraged when the croakiness does not go away overnight. On a lighter note, surgery is not usually indicated since the nodules can grow back. This is important, therefore, to focus more on taking care of your voice.
To sum it up, vocal cords are networks that work like the CDATA to transform, organize and regulate air into words and other language-specific sounds. Vocal cord nodes do not enlarge the neck but rather cause the voice to become husky. The most effective treatment is to learn to use your voice more efficiently.