Swallowing Disorders & Vocal Cord Treatment

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Losing your ability to eat, drink, talk, or breathe properly can cause pain and discomfort. If you use your voice professionally, as a singer or speaker, your career could be at risk. But all of us need to communicate. Swallowing, airway, and voice disorders can cause everything from frustration to social isolation and depression.

At UVA Health, we know the impact these issues can have on your life. We offer specialized care and vocal cord treatment you can't find everywhere. Our concentrated attention and expert services can quickly help you get back to normal.

Signs You Need an ENT or Vocal Cord Specialist

You may need a voice specialist if you have:

  • Hoarseness that lasts 3 weeks
  • Difficulty singing
  • Difficulty speaking over background noise
  • Chronic throat clearing
  • Chronic coughing
  • Persistent feeling of a lump in the throat (globus sensation)
  • Liquid regularly going into your windpipe
  • Food sticking in the throat
  • Shortness of breath caused by throat tightness

Choose Effective, Convenient Care at UVA

Only a handful of providers in Virginia offer specialized treatments for vocal cord and swallowing disorders. At UVA, our highly specialized doctors and voice therapists can provide the latest care options.  

Working closely with our speech therapy team during your initial visit, we aim to make the right diagnosis as soon as possible and can plan and provide the best treatment for your condition, including same-day procedures performed right in the clinic.

Conditions We Treat

Swallowing

  • Cricopharyngeal hypertrophy (CP bar)
  • Swallowing trouble (dysphagia)
  • Voice and swallowing problems due to neurological disease (stroke, Parkinson's disease, paralysis)
  • Zenkers diverticulum

Airway & Breathing

  • Autoimmune conditions causing airway scarring
  • Bilateral vocal cord paralysis
  • Idiopathic subglottic stenosis
  • Intubation injury
  • Posterior glottic stenosis
  • Tracheal stenosis
  • Tracheostomy complications

    Voice (Hoarseness)

    • Acute and chronic laryngitis, reflux laryngitis, allergic laryngitis
    • Laryngeal and tracheal stenosis (scar tissue airway narrowing)
    • Muscular tension dysphonia
    • Professional singer and speaker–specific ear, nose, and throat problems
    • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis
    • Spasmodic dysphonia
    • Vocal cord polyps, nodules, and cysts
    • Vocal cord paralysis
    • Vocal cord spasms
    • Voice box (larynx) cancer and precancerous growths

    Gender-affirming Care

    • Transgender voice modification (vocal feminization surgery and voice therapy)
    • Laryngeal chondroplasty (tracheal shave)
    Restoring & Reconstructing Your Voice Box

    Problems with your voice box can affect how you speak, breathe, or swallow. Hoarseness can range from a very small voice change to complete loss of your voice. 

    Damage to your voice box can happen from many different causes. Cancer, ventilator tube trauma, autoimmune conditions, and other conditions can hurt your vocal cords and throat. We offer advanced and traditional treatments to preserve and restore your voice box. These include:  

    • Laser surgery
    • Advanced airway reconstructive techniques
    • Cutting-edge nerve reinnervation

    Starting Your Journey Back to Normal

    You'll meet our team of experts during your very first visit. Together, we'll diagnose your condition and plan a complete care approach. This kind of focused attention lets us limit the number of visits you'll need. We can map out your rehab potential and get treatment started as soon as possible.

    The team includes:

    • Medical doctors (MDs)
    • Speech-language pathologists (SLPs)
    • Physician assistants (PAs)

    Learn more about what's involved in getting a diagnosis.

    Swallowing Problems: A Podcast

    Ever get a lump in your throat that just won't go away? Find out what the cause could be. View vocal cord specialist transcript.