Does Having Throat Nodules Mean I Need Surgery?

Female Doctor checking male patients throat

When we speak or sing, we use our vocal cords. Also called vocal folds or voice reeds, these cords are actually folded mucous membranes that stretch across, from back to front, across the larynx (commonly called the voice box). These folds vibrate to modulate the flow of air as it is expelled from the lungs when we speak or sing.

What Are Throat Nodules?

Vocal cord nodules, called vocal fold or throat nodules by doctors, are growths that form on the vocal cords. These noncancerous (benign) growths are similar to calluses that can form on the feet or hands.

What Causes Throat Nodules?

Growths on the vocal cords, in the form of throat nodules, polyps, and cysts, can affect individuals of any age. Throat nodules are a common cause of voice issues in both children and adults.

Throat nodules develop in people who use their voice regularly and may inadvertently overuse their vocal cords, causing the formation of throat nodules and related voice issues. Some throat nodules are associated with abnormal blood vessels.

What Are the Risk Factors for Throat Nodules?

The exact cause of benign vocal cord lesions is not known, but research suggests that throat nodules appear following the heavy or traumatic use of the voice. These risk factors can include voice misuse, such as speaking in an improper pitch, as well as excessive talking, screaming, or singing. Other risk factors are using your voice excessively while you’re sick, chronic allergies, and smoking.

What Are the Symptoms of Throat Nodules?

The first symptoms that typically appear due to throat lesions are a change in voice quality and persistent hoarseness. Other symptoms include:

  • Vocal fatigue
  • Unreliable voice
  • Voice falters at the first sentence
  • A “rough” voice
  • A “scratchy” voice
  • Low pitch
  • Voice breaks
  • Added effort needed to speak or sing
  • Neck pain
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Voice is “hard to find”

How Are Throat Nodules Diagnosed?

An ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) is a physician who has completed a medical residency in Otolaryngology. Choosing an ENT doctor to examine and diagnose if you have throat nodules is recommended because ENTs have the specialized training and equipment for diagnosing throat and vocal cord related issues.

Throat nodules can be diagnosed using the following:

A complete medical history is conducted including any voice issues.

Laryngoscopy: Your doctor places a small camera in your mouth and into the throat that allows a close view into the voice box.

Tests for any medical conditions that can contribute to throat nodules including allergies, acid reflux, hormonal imbalances, and medication side effects.

How Are Throat Nodules Treated?

The treatment options your ENT doctor recommends will depend on your vocal needs, as well as the degree of voice limitation you’re experiencing. If non-surgical methods do not result in any improvement, surgery may be needed.

Voice therapy: You’re trained in techniques that target vocal factors such as pitch, volume, and quality.

Voice rest: You’re given a set period of time of resting your vocal folds by not speaking and singing.

Surgery, such as phonomicrosurgery: The vocal folds are surgically manipulated to remove throat nodules while preserving the normal areas of the surrounding vocal fold tissues.

If you’re experiencing voice issues or throat nodules, the first step towards speaking and feeling better is to schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. Board certified physicians with New York ENT have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a wide range of voice-related conditions, including throat nodules.  Please fill out the form on this page, or call our office at 212-873-6036 to schedule an appointment today.

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