Throat Polyps: Causes and Treatment
Throat polyps, which are also called vocal cord polyps, are small growths that appear on the vocal cords. In human beings, the vocal cords are mucous membranes in the larynx. All the sound we make is produced by the vibration of these membranes. When there is a swelling in one of these membranes, that is called a throat polyp. It may start out as minor swelling, but it can grow and become as big as the entire length of the vocal cord. A throat polyp is generally a soft non-malignant growth that is sometimes compared to a blister.
Usually, a polyp grows alone on any given vocal cord. Reinke's edema and polypoid degeneration are other names used to refer to this problem.
Who Is At Risk For Throat Polyps?
Those who have to use their voices continuously such as:
• Members of the clergy
• TV and radio personalities
Excessive use of the vocal cords, called voice abuse, triggers polyps which are actually lesions in the throat.
It can also be caused by inhaling irritants such as cigarette smoke or industrial smoke.
Those who have allergic reactions in the larynx or gastro esophageal reflux or hypothyroidism also show manifestations of polyps.
Symptoms Of Throat Polyps
The most easily seen clinical symptom of throat polyps is a loss of voice or a hoarseness and breathiness in speech. Those with a throat polyp sometimes confuse it with a sore throat in the early stages. If you are feeling discomfort when talking, it is important to go for a medical examination rather than attempt self-diagnosis as throat hoarseness can also be a symptom of cancer in the larynx. The doctor may have to do a laryngoscopy to get an exact assessment of the problem.
Treatment For Throat Polyps
Doctors usually recommend that patients discontinue speaking for a few weeks and give their vocal cords a complete rest. If you think of the vocal cord as an overworked muscle, this rest allows it to slowly ease back into normalcy.
This rest should also be followed by sessions with the speech therapist to make long-term modifications to speech and voice habits as that most likely caused the problem in the first place. Modification in behavior may be particularly pertinent to children with this problem if they are screamers.
Sometimes, doctors will suggest the use of steroids which can be inhaled, and in other cases, surgery may be necessary for removing the polyps.
The surgical removal can sometimes be achieved during a laryngoscopy examination as the doctor will be inserting a thin metal tube into the throat through the mouth. The doctor can add an additional attachment to clip the polyps off. The doctor may recommend a biopsy of the polyp to rule out cancer.
Voice Therapy Sessions
Surgical polyp removal should also ideally be followed by voice therapy sessions as that will address the root cause of the trouble. Patients will be advised on how to use their voices without overly straining their vocal cords. This would mean no more loud shouting or screaming.
Interestingly, it is also not a good idea to whisper as the idea is to use a normal pitch voice rather than go too low or too high. A useful trick to release tension in the neck area is by lightly moving the head front-to-back while keeping the shoulders relaxed.
With the proper treatment, most people recover their normal voice completely. If you have throat polyps, you should be rigorous in adopting new vocal habits and avoid smoking to make sure that it does not relapse.