Edema of the vocal cords

July 2017


The swelling of the vocal cords is a condition that appears as an increase in volume, most commonly affecting both vocal cords. The consequences of this inflammation are:
Excessive use of tobacco and / or alcohol is one of the main causes. This inflammation of the vocal cords can also be found in various forms of laryngitis, namely:
It is important to first look at the symptoms to avoid the risk of a more severe disease like cancer.


The main symptom of edema of the vocal cords is a hoarseness, which usually becomes more severe. Whether the laryngitis is acute or chronic, it is experienced by the patient in both cases, but it is persistent in the case of chronic laryngitis. Symptoms may also be short-term, but recurring. In all cases, consult a doctor or an ENT.


The exam can detect the type of inflammation of the vocal cords is in question. He will examine the vocal cords with a test called direct laryngoscopy; the vocal cords will be red and edematous as well as the entire larynx in the case of acute laryngitis. In the case of chronic laryngitis, the following can be detected:
  • vocal cords that are thick, red and congested in the case of chronic hypertrophic laryngitis and also Reinke's edema;
  • vocal cords that have a rather whitish mucosa: in this case, a potential cancerous lesion is suspected.

In case of doubt, a sample taken at the vocal cords allow analysis by a pathologist and the detection of dysplasia, pre-cancerous changes.


Acute laryngitis heals spontaneously, but requires the voice be put to rest and the patient stop smoking. Corticosteroids are sometimes prescribed. Various forms of chronic laryngitis require that risk factors be entirely avoided (smoking, forcing the voice, toxic vapors or fumes, chronic ENT infections). In these cases, treatment requires:
  • speech therapy;
  • monitoring of dysplastic lesions, if present;
  • chemotherapy and a surgical treatment, sometimes supplemented by radiotherapy if a tumor is found.


To prevent the swelling of the vocal cords, it is imperative not to force the voice excessively, not to smoke or drink alcohol. It is also better to avoid toxic fumes. Finally, gastro-oesophageal reflux and any ENT infection should be treated, as they can also cause swelling of the vocal cords.


Original article published by . Translated by Jeff. Latest update on October 29, 2013 at 06:24 PM by Jeff.
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