Jefferson Health

Vocal Fold Paralysis or Weakness

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Vocal fold paralysis can happen at any age for a variety of causes. Some common symptoms are a hoarse, soft voice, feeling breathless during activity and getting winded when speaking. The otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat physicians) of the Jefferson Voice and Swallowing Center can examine your condition to determine the cause and see how likely it is that your voice will recover on its own.

Types of Vocal Fold Paralysis

There are two types of vocal fold paralysis:

  • Bilateral vocal fold paralysis is a lack of movement in both vocal folds. Sometimes a bilateral paralysis needs immediate emergency attention to make sure that your airway will not be blocked.
  • Unilateral vocal fold paralysis is nerve injury that can occur due to pressure on the nerve from a tumor growing next to it, a viral infection or an inadvertent result from a common surgical procedure, such as thyroid surgery, carotid endarterectomy or repair of aortic aneurysms in the chest.

Vocal Fold Paralysis Treatment

Some cases of vocal fold paralysis recover on their own. Options for treatment may range from voice therapy to surgery. If surgery is required, noninvasive options are often offered as a temporary or permanent solution.