Have you been experiencing shortness of breath and coughing while running or swimming? How about coughing uncontrollably after smelling a particular candle or food? You could have a vocal cord disorder that’s been overlooked by a primary care physician or pediatrician. Patients often come into our office after receiving treatment for asthma symptoms without relief and in many cases, it’s because symptoms are not caused by a narrowed airway, but rather by the tightening of vocal fold muscles.
Overview of Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM)
Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM) happens when the vocal folds don’t open correctly. In asthma, shortness of breath occurs when the bronchial tubes tighten due to an allergic reaction in the immune system. But when a patient has PVFM, breathing problems occur because the vocal fold muscles tighten during certain triggers. For instance, a patient with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) may lay down at night and when acid comes to the level of the vocal folds, an intense episode of coughing and shortness of breath can happen.
Other ways that episodes of PVFM are triggered include:
•Cardio exercise such as running, swimming, lacrosse and field hockey
•Change in air temperature
•A cold or viral infection
Common Symptoms of PVFM
Because symptoms are so similar to those of asthma, it’s important to receive a complete evaluation in order to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Symptoms of PVFM include:
•Difficulty breathing in, whereas asthma usually causes trouble breathing out
•A constant tickle in your throat
•Sensitivity to certain smells
•Voice problems such as hoarseness
In an office consultation, you’ll be evaluated by a team of professionals who treat voice problems. Most of the time, this team will consist of a:
•Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor)
The team will examine your medical history and discuss your symptoms such as breathing difficulties and voice problems. A pulmonologist may do a spirometry test to measure airflow, and a videostroboscopy to evaluate the structure and function of the laryngeal mechanism. A telltale sign of PVFM is when the vocal folds close when breathing.
To treat PVFM, a speech pathologist will administer activities that relax the throat muscles using a specific deep breathing technique. Patients who suffer from asthma, allergies, or GERD along with PVFM may notice a reduction in symptoms in these other areas due to relaxation in the vocal folds.
The Voice and Swallowing Center Treats Voice and Airway Disorders in St. Louis
If you’re not getting relief from your airway discomfort or have been told that you may be a candidate for PVFM treatment, we’d love to help. Your ENT, pulmonologist or allergist can refer you to our office for a same day appointment upon request.
Schedule an Appointment with a Sound ENT by Calling (314) 332-1377 Today.