Vocal cord paralysis


Vocal cord paralysis is a condition characterized by the inability to control the movement of the muscles responsible for voice production. This occurs when nerve impulses to the voice box (larynx) are interrupted, resulting in the paralysis of the vocal cord muscles.

The effects of vocal cord paralysis can make speaking and breathing difficult. This is because the vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, play a crucial role in protecting the airway by preventing food, liquids, and saliva from entering the windpipe (trachea) and causing choking.

Potential causes of vocal cord paralysis include nerve damage during surgery, viral infections, and certain types of cancer. Treatment typically involves surgical intervention, with voice therapy sometimes being recommended as well.


The two flexible bands of muscle tissue at the mouth of your trachea make up your voice cords. These bands come together and vibrate when someone speaks. The vocal cords are kept relaxed in an open position, allowing for breathing. Usually, only one vocal cord is impacted in cases of vocal cord paralysis. Bilateral paralysis, on the other hand, affects both vocal cords and is rare but can be quite serious. This illness may cause trouble speaking as well as significant respiratory and swallowing difficulties.

Vocal cord paralysis can present with the following symptoms:

  • Breathy voice quality
  • Loss of vocal pitch
  • Noisy breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Inability to speak loudly
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of gag reflex
  • Choking or coughing while swallowing food, drink, or saliva
  • Ineffective coughing
  • Frequent throat clearing

Get in touch with your doctor if you experience discomfort or unexpected voice changes, or if your hoarseness persists for more than two to four weeks.


The nerve impulses that supply the larynx, or voice box, are interfered with in vocal cord paralysis, resulting in muscle paralysis. Many times, doctors are unable to pinpoint the precise reason of vocal cord paralysis. However, a few recognized causes could be:

  • Vocal cord damage resulting from surgery. The nerves supplying the voice box may sustain damage from surgery performed on or near the neck or upper chest. Surgery on the thyroid or parathyroid glands, esophagus, neck, or chest are among the procedures that have a potential for harm.
  • Stroke. A stroke damages the area of the brain that communicates with the voice box.
  • Chest or neck trauma. The nerves supplying the vocal cords or the voice box itself may be damaged by trauma to the neck or chest.
  • Conditions of the nervous system. Vocal cord paralysis can result from a number of neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
  • Infection. Certain infections, like Epstein-Barr virus, herpes, and Lyme disease, can inflame the voice box’s nerves and cause direct harm to them. There is some evidence that a COVID-19 infection can result in vocal cord paralysis.
  • Tumors. Vocal cord paralysis can result from tumors, both malignant and noncancerous, growing in or near the muscles, cartilage, or nerves that control the voice box’s function.

Risk factors

The following are some things that could make you more susceptible to vocal cord paralysis:

  • Having surgery on the chest or throat. Individuals undergoing surgery for thyroid, throat, or upper chest conditions are more susceptible to harm to their vocal cords. Vocal cord nerve injury can occasionally result from breathing tubes used before surgery or to assist breathing if you are experiencing severe respiratory problems.
  • Experiencing a neurological disorder. Individuals with specific neurological disorders, such multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, are more susceptible to vocal cord paralysis or weakness.