Vocal Cord Dysfunction

St. Louis Allergy Doctors: Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal cord dysfunction is a condition in which a person’s vocal cords do no function properly when they breathe. Persons who suffer from vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) can benefit from diagnosis and treatment with an allergy doctor in St. Louis. While you may first consult your primary care doctor if you have difficulty breathing, a St. Louis allergist will provide the best care for vocal cord dysfunction. This particular condition can be difficult to diagnose, but a specialized allergy doctor in St. Louis can identify the source of your symptoms and prescribe a treatment specifically suited to you.

St. Louis Allergy Clinic for Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD)

Your vocal cords are deep in your throat, in your voice box (larynx). Normally, when you breathe in or inhale, your vocal cords open. This allows air to go into your windpipe (trachea) and lungs. When you breathe out or exhale, your vocal cords open and let the air out of your lungs. Breathing out can cause your the vocal cords to vibrate and lets your produce sounds (your voice).

VCD can be difficult to diagnose without the expertise of a St. Louis asthma doctor. Simply put, vocal cord dysfunction means that your vocal cords do not act normally. With VCD, instead of your vocal cords opening up when you breathe in and out, your vocal cords close. This closing of your vocal cords makes it harder to get air into or out of your lungs.

Common signs and symptoms of VCD:

  • Feeling short of breath or feeling that it is hard to get air into or out of your lungs
  • A feeling of tightness in the throat or chest
  • Frequent cough or clearing your throat
  • A feeling of choking or suffocation
  • Noisy breathing (wheezing or raspy sound/stridor)
  • Hoarse voice

An attack of VCD can be sudden and may be severe. Without treatment, a severe attack may require emergency room treatment followed by a visit to your St. Louis allergist. Even if an attack is severe, the oxygen level in your blood is usually normal. VCD symptoms do not usually occur during sleep.

St. Louis Allergists: Causes of VCD

According to allergy and asthma specialists in St. Louis, there are many different possible causes of VCD. Often no cause can be found. VCD may be caused by:

  • Upper respiratory infection (cold)
  • Strong odors or fumes
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Acid reflux (GERD)
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Exercise

St. Louis Allergy & Asthma Doctor: Diagnosis of VCD

VCD can be very hard to detect. Before they visit a St. Louis asthma doctor, people with VCD are often thought to have asthma because the symptoms and triggers for VCD and asthma can be similar. The difference between VCD and asthma is that if you have asthma, medicines that open your breathing tubes (bronchodilators like albuterol) will improve your breathing. If you have VCD alone, the bronchodilator will not work. To make it even more confusing, you may have both VCD and asthma. It is important to see an asthma doctor in St. Louis for effective treatment of VCD.

Your St. Louis asthma clinic can find out if you have VCD by testing your breathing and looking at your vocal cords. The breathing test is called spirometry and must include a flow-volume loop. This test shows how well air moves in and out of your lungs. (For more information on pulmonary function tests, our St. Louis allergists recommend the website of the American Thoracic Society.)

If you are having VCD symptoms during the test, the test will usually, but not always, show blockage mainly of the air flowing into the lungs. Breathing test results can be normal if your VCD is not active at the time of testing. This is one reason why it can be hard to determine if you have VCD, according to our St. Louis allergy and asthma doctors.

To diagnose VCD, our allergy doctor in St. Louis will look at your vocal cords when you are having difficulty breathing. To look at your vocal cords, a small, flexible fiberoptic tube (laryngoscope) is passed through your nose to the back of your throat where your vocal cords can be seen. Before the tube is put into your nose, medicine to numb your nose and throat is used. The test is usually done as an outpatient so you do not need to stay in the hospital in St. Louis. During the test, you are awake, and you may be asked to talk to see if your vocal cords are working normally.

You may be asked to exercise on a treadmill or cycle with the breathing testing or may inhale a medicine called methacholine during testing to try to bring on the VCD symptoms. If symptoms develop, a breathing test or laryngoscopy will be done to confirm the abnormal closure of the vocal cords.

St. Louis Asthma Clinic: Treating VCD

VCD is different than many other breathing problems because medicines prescribed by an allergy doctor in St. Louis are not the main treatment to control or prevent VCD. The main treatment for VCD is speech therapy techniques that help you learn to control your vocal cords. Speech therapy techniques are usually taught by a speech therapist or psychologist who is trained and experienced in treating VCD. The techniques you will learn will help to improve your ability to relax your throat muscles.

You may have to meet with a therapist at least 3 to 4 times to learn these techniques. Learning these techniques takes regular practice. You will need to practice them even when you are not having VCD, so you can be ready to control the symptoms before they become severe.

Our allergy doctors in St. Louis find that strong emotions and stress can trigger VCD, so it is important to lean to manage your stress. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and psychotherapy have been shown to be helpful in controlling VCD. If you have asthma and VCD, it is important that your asthma is under good control through routine visits to your asthma doctor in St. Louis. If your VCD is triggered by post-nasal drip or acid reflux (GERD), an allergist can advise you about what you can do to control these.

St. Louis Allergy Help for VCD

Those anyone suffering from shortness of breath or other symptoms of VCD, a visit to a St. Louis asthma clinic is recommended for accurate diagnosis. From prevention tips to VCD and asthma treatment, our St. Louis allergy clinic is here to help. At your appointment, an asthma doctor will assess your condition and determine the best treatment method at our St. Louis allergy clinic. We accept many forms of health insurance and our clinic houses some of the most knowledgeable asthma doctors in St. Louis for treating VCD.

Adapted from a paper by authors: Brugman, S, Craven, D, Fahy, B, Hewitt, H, Sockrider, M.
For additional information: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/related-conditions/vocal-cord-dysfunction

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