Laryngology is the field of medicine that focuses on the voice box, or larynx. The voice box is located at the junction between the lower throat, the esophagus, and wind pipe (or trachea). The larynx plays a critical role in not only speech, but breathing and swallowing. Problems with the voice box include hoarseness, frequent cough, swallowing difficulties, breathing problems, and throat cancer. Ear, Nose & Throat doctors routinely perform laryngoscopies, or examinations of the larynx, in the office. This is a simple procedure where a flexible scope about the thickeness of spaghetti is inserted through the nose, passed into the throat, and used to look at the voice box. This allows the doctor to diagnose problems affecting the voice box.
Below you will find some information on some of the problems that can affect the larynx and how we can treat them. Call us today at 501-932-7600 for an appointment to see how we can help you.
A normal voice is produced when both vocal cords rub together while breathing out. The vibration produces a smooth sound, much like a reed instrument. Anything that prevents the vocal cords from vibrating normally produces hoarseness. Laryngitis, or inflammation of the voice box, results in puffy vocal cords that can't rub together normally. Growths along the edges of vocal cords such as nodules, polyps, or tumors cause a raspy or strained voice. A weak or paralyzed vocal cord often causes a breathy or high pitch voice. Acid reflux or excessive dryness of the throat often causes subtle raspiness or loss of vocal range. The aging process alone causes the vocal cords to become less tight, affecting pitch and voice quality.
In addition to a history and physical exam, a laryngoscopy is essential to determine the cause of hoarseness. Additional details such as voice overuse, history of recent illness, and history of neck or heart surgeries are often instrumental in determining the cause. Both Dr. Kirsch and Dr. Fraley have years of experience evaluating hoarseness and vocal cord lesions. If you or someone you know is having persistent problems with his or her voice, call us to schedule an appointment for an evaluation.
Most disorders of the ear, nose, and throat at least aggravated if not caused by smoking. This is especially true for disorders of the larynx. Patients who smoke have far more problems with hoarseness, larynx cancer, and cough than those who don't. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a limit to how much doctors can help voice patients who continue to smoke. If you imagine that your voice problem is a fire, we can pour water (medications) on it all day, but if you continue pouring gasoline (smoke) on the fire, it will never extinguish. The Ear, Nose & Throat Center of Conway treats all patients, regardless of smoking status, but we strongly urge all of our patients - especially those with voice problems - to stop smoking.
Everyone gets a cough from time to time. However, there are some cases where coughs persist for months and months. Any cough that lasts longer than 2 months is considered a chronic cough. The cause of these coughs can be very difficult and time-consuming to determine. After failing initial treatment by primary care physicians, patients are often referred to ENT specialists for further evaluation. A detailed ENT exam and laryngoscopy can be helpful in determining the cause. If the exact cause is still not found, ENT doctors are experienced in treatment algorithms to help determine which medications can alleviate the problem.
Information adapted from the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery