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Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) Defined

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) is a condition that causes the vocal cords to function incorrectly. It is also sometimes called paradoxical vocal fold movement (PVFM).

The vocal cords are located at the top of the airway called a windpipe. Typically, the vocal cords open as we breathe air into the lungs. With VCD, the vocal cords sometimes close or constrict during inhalation when they should open. This leaves only a small opening for air to pass through, which can make breathing difficult.

The symptoms of VCD can be similar to asthma symptoms. Some of the triggers for VCD and asthma are also the same. These include exercise, stress, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LRD), exposure to irritants or allergens, changes in temperature, respiratory infections and phychosocial stress.

While the symptoms and triggers of VCD and asthma are often similar, the treatment is very different. This makes an accurate diagnosis essential.

Unlike asthma, medications are not a long term solution to managing VCD. While medications may help treat underlying causes of VCD (such as GERD), speech therapy is the standard treatment approach to gaining more control of vocal cord movements.