Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD)

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Duke voice disorder specialists use the latest diagnostic tests to identify vocal cord dysfunction, which occurs when the vocal cords do not open normally, which can affect your breathing. Our specially trained speech pathologists teach you exercises that help the throat relax, keep the vocal cords open when you inhale, and ease the symptoms related to your vocal cord dysfunction.

Comprehensive care for vocal cord dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), also known as "paradoxical vocal fold movement" and "irritable larynx syndrome," is an upper airway disorder characterized by the involuntary closing of the vocal cords when they should be open. The closed vocal cords make it feel as thou you are having difficulty breathing. During a VCD attack, it's common to feel as if you are choking or suffocating, and for sounds to emanate from your throat when you inhale. A chronic cough is often associated with vocal cord dysfunction.  The coughing and difficulty breathing commonly leads to vocal cord dysfunction being confused with asthma, which can lead to misdiagnosis and a delay in treatment.

Our laryngologists and speech therapists look into your throat with a tiny camera to observe your breathing patterns and make sure there is no structural abnormality.  If you have asthma as well, we coordinate your care with lung specialists at Duke who can help you manage your condition. We help you understand the common triggers for vocal cord dysfunction and teach you breathing exercises to help minimize your vocal cord dysfunction attacks.

Choose Duke for your treatment of vocal cord dysfunction because we offer:

  • Voice disorder specialists. We are one of the few voice centers in the Southeast, with a comprehensive team of voice experts. Your team includes ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physicians who are laryngologists, a specialty that requires advanced training in voice and throat disorders.
  • Highly specialized speech pathologists. Our speech pathologists undergo specialized training to evaluate and treat patients with voice problems including vocal cord dysfunction.
  • Coordinated care.  We work with specialists in allergy, lung disease, and digestive disorders throughout Duke to ensure you receive comprehensive and coordinated care for treatment of all the underlying causes of vocal cord dysfunction. Since it is often misdiagnosed, it is important to seek care from a team that has experience in diagnosing and treating vocal cord dysfunction.
  • Better treatment decisions. Our ongoing research ensures you receive the best care.



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