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Vocal Cord Dysfunction: Symptoms and Treatment

By Ashley Chapman 

It may not be something that you pay attention to but your breathing is important from when you are sleeping to being active at work.  If you have a hard time breathing at various times throughout the day or even when you are sleeping, you may suffer from vocal cord dysfunction. While you may have similar symptoms as stated below, it is important to visit your doctor or specialist to confirm.

What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) "occurs when the vocal cords do not open correctly." When your vocal cords are not working properly this can cause your lungs to not get enough oxygen.

Common Misdiagnosis 

If you suffer from this disorder, it can be common to be misdiagnosed with asthma first. This common misdiagnosis occurs because the symptoms of asthma are extremely similar to that of VCD. To get the most accurate diagnosis, your physician will need to test both your breathing and examine your vocal cords.

Another way that you and your physician can determine if you have been diagnosed correctly is if the medicine you have been prescribed is not working. Asthma and VCD have different forms of treatment, so if you have been prescribed an inhaler for asthma and it is not helping, it may be because you are suffering from VCD.


There are variety of symptoms associated with VCD, and as stated earlier, may be similar to symptoms that are caused by asthma. If you suffer from allergies or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), these may trigger your VCD symptoms.

Symptoms that are commonly associated with VCD include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing 
  • Feeling of choking or suffocating (while awake or sleeping)
  • Throat tightness

Along with these symptoms, some people who have not been diagnosed may suffer from anxiety attacks from the feeling of not being able to breathe.


There are various reasons why someone may suffer from VCD. It is important to be aware of triggers and to either limit or eliminate these triggers altogether.

Some causes of VCD may include:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Acid reflux
  • Stress
  • Nasal drip
  • Colds


While there is no cure for VCD, there are two main forms of treatment to help with the symptoms, including speech therapy and deep breathing techniques. Speech therapists teach strategies on how to relax your throat muscles. It will be important to practice these strategies even when you do not have VCD symptoms so that you can master them.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Prosper, Tex.

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