Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences

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Paradoxical Vocal Fold Dysfunction

Paradoxical vocal fold dysfunction (PVFD) is a disorder that causes shortness of breath.  It is due to abnormal movement of the vocal folds while breathing.

Normally the vocal folds are open during breathing and closed when speaking, swallowing and coughing.  During episodes of PVFD, the vocal folds partially or fully close during breathing.  This restricts the passage of air to the lungs.

POSSIBLE TRIGGERS MAY INCLUDE:

Exercise
Reflux
Allergy
Asthma
Anxiety/Stress
Exposure to odors or air borne chemicals

SYMPTOMS OF THE DISORDER MAY INCLUDE:

Episodes of shortness of breath
Difficulty inhaling air
Stridor (wheezing sound while breathing in)
Sensation of tightness in the throat or chest
Changes in voice quality (hoarseness)

PVFD is often confused with asthma because of similar symptoms, but it typically does not respond to asthma medication.  An accurate diagnosis requires the skill of a knowledgeable professional team and treatment is provided by an experienced speech-language pathologist.

TREATMENT

The treatment program consists of two to four therapy sessions that include:

Education regarding normal breathing patterns
Instruction in relaxation of throat muscles
Identification of restrictive breathing patterns
Instruction in techniques to help keep the vocal folds open

Patients gradually learn to use these strategies in situations that trigger their symptoms.  Sometimes patients also benefit from additional therapy to learn to produce voice without strain.  By the end of treatment, most patients are able to control their symptoms very well and are usually able to resume their normal activities.

 

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Page Updated 11/08/2013