Vocal fold cysts generally arise when a person somehow misuses or overuses their voice. The incidence of vocal cord cysts is unknown but the incidence is much higher among individuals who use their voices as part of their profession. For example, celebrity Rachael Ray was diagnosed with a benign vocal fold cyst.
Types of Vocal Cord Cysts
Two major types of cysts are commonly found on the vocal chords. The difference between the two cysts is the tissue that they are made of. Epidermoid cysts are made of epidermal (skin) cells and keratin. Mucous retention cysts are a clear fluid filled cyst. Cysts can also be called pseudocysts because their tissue composition does not match epidermoid or mucous retention cysts. In addition to cysts polyps, (an overgrowth of tissue that usually arises from a mucous membrane), and nodules, (an undefined mass of tissue that is usually not cancerous), can also form on vocal cords. Actress and singer Julie Andrews lost her singing voice due to nodules on the vocal cords. Sometimes there is vocal cord thickening on the opposite side of the growth. Allergies and other irritants such as reflux laryngitis can also contribute to the formation of abnormal growths on the vocal chords.
Symptoms of Vocal Cord CystsVocal cord cysts have a variety of symptoms which are unique to each individual. Some individuals with vocal cord cysts may experience the following symptoms:
- a sudden loss of voice
- difficulty singing at a certain pitch
Treatment of Vocal Cord Cysts
Sometimes the symptoms of a vocal cord cyst can be reversed using medical intervention such as removing irritants such as allergies or treating reflux laryngitis. Often speech therapy is beneficial. Speech therapists can instruct patients on ways to reduce vocal chord abuse and use their voice more efficiently. Surgery is reserved for extreme cases.
American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Fact Sheet: Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts. Accessed April 6, 2009 from http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/nodPolypCysts.cfm
The Voice & Swallowing Center. Vocal Fold Cysts. Accessed April 6, 2009 from http://www.voiceandswallowing.com/Voicedisorders_vfc.htm