Small, noncancerous lumps on the vocal cords, causing hoarseness
Constant strain on the voice sometimes leads to the formation of small, greyish-white nodules on the vocal cords of the larynx (voice box). Vocal cord nodules are noncancerous. The size of the nodules ranges from that of a pinhead to a grape seed. They sometimes cause scarring of the vocal cords.
The condition is common in people who tend to overuse their voices over a long period of time. For example, singers and teachers may be affected by vocal cord nodules. Drinking alcohol and smoking aggravate the symptoms. Nodules sometimes occur in persistently noisy children, especially boys who shout a lot, while playing sports for example.
The symptoms include increasing hoarseness, which develops suddenly or gradually, and rapid voice loss. You should consult a doctor if symptoms last more than 2 weeks because some types of cancer of the larynx have similar symptoms.
Your doctor will probably arrange for you to go to hospital for mirror laryngoscopy and possibly for a biopsy, in which a sample of tissue is removed using an endoscope (see Endoscopy of the nose and throat). If the nodules are small, you may be taught how to avoid straining your voice by a speech therapist (see Speech therapy). The nodules may then shrink or gradually disappear. Your doctor may suggest that you have larger nodules removed using laser treatment or microsurgery. Some-times the condition recurs.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.