The larynx, otherwise known as the voice box, is located in the front of your neck. The structure commonly known as the Adam's apple is a portion of the cartilage that makes up the framework of the larynx. The most obvious function of the larynx is that it produces the sound of your voice. A less obvious function of the larynx is that it protects your airway. The vocal cords close to prevent food from choking you during swallowing. The vocal cords are the part of the larynx that actually produce the sound of your voice. When a problem occurs with the larynx the most common symptom is hoarseness. Other possible symptoms include frequent throat clearing, and the sensation of something being stuck in your throat. If any of these symptoms occur for more than 2 weeks an evaluation by an Otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) is warranted.
EVALUATION OF THE LARYNX
The parotid is a salivary gland
The larynx can be readily examined in the office as part of a full Head & Neck evaluation. In order to get a detailed look at your larynx your Otolaryngologist may perform an examination using a fiberoptic laryngoscope. Anesthetic spray is used to numb up the nose. The fiberoptic scope is then passed through the nasal cavity to examine the larynx. The anesthetic spray allows this procedure to be performed with minimal discomfort to the patient. The fiberoptic examination allows your Otolaryngologist to fully inspect the larynx.
AIRWAY POLYPS AND PAPILLOMAS
Polyps and papillomas are 2 type of common benign lesions which can affect the vocal cords and the airway. Polyps are generally thought to arise due to chronic vocal cord irritation, while papillomas are related to exposure to certain types of viruses. Both of these lesions are an abnormal growth of tissue. When they occur on the vocal cords they can cause hoarseness. If they enlarge, or if they extend down into the trachea, they can cause you to have difficulty breathing. The treatment of these lesions in most cases requires surgical removal. The physicians of Berks ENT Surgical Associates, Inc. have extensive experience in the use of endoscopic microsurgical and laser techniques for the removal of these lesions. The advances in surgical technique he brought to the Reading Hospital and Medical Center allow these lesions to be removed through endoscopes, with no external incisions. Often the voice outcome is greatly enhanced as a result of the use of these techniques.
VOCAL CORD NODULES
Benign vocal cord nodules are small lesions on the vocal cords which do not allow the vocal cords to vibrate properly, resulting in a hoarse voice. They are usually due to voice abuse (loud screaming, voice straining). The nodules are areas of localized inflammation on the vocal cord. If the nodules are allowed to persist, they can scar and produce a permanent voice change. The treatment for these lesions is voice rest and speech therapy. The speech therapist teaches the patient ways to achieve the desired voice production without straining and injuring the vocal cords. Surgical treatment is reserved for patients who do not respond to speech therapy and voice rest.
GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE
Acid reflux is a problem that can affect the larynx. When gastroesophageal reflux occurs, small amounts of stomach acid travel from the stomach into the throat, burning the vocal cords and surrounding structures. This causes swelling and inflammation of the larynx. Patients will typically experience hoarseness, a need to clear the throat often, and a sensation of a lump in the throat. These symptoms can also be caused by other more dangerous problems. Therefore a full evaluation by your physician is recommended. Your primary care physician may determine that referral to an Otolaryngologist is warranted. The treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) involves modifying certain behaviors that may be producing the problem, as well as the use of prescription strength antacids. This treatment should be instituted under the direction of your physician.
TREATMENT OF BENIGN LARYNGEAL AND VOICE DISORDERS