Dysphonia is a condition in which the vocal cords are unable to produce sounds properly. Because many factors can lead to the development of this inability of the vocal cords to function properly, modern medicine has identified several different types of this condition. Some forms of this condition are short-term in nature, while others may require some time to correct.
There are two general categories or types of dysphonia. The organic type includes situations where there is some sort of impediment to the function of the vocal cords, such as an infection or damage to the chords as the result of an accident. Functional dysphonia involves situations where there is some type of psychogenic component, or perhaps a misuse of the vocal cords that leads to a temporary problem with the voice.
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Unlike aphonia, where the individual is unable to produce vocal sounds that can be easily understood, dysphonia sufferers can often still communicate with others, although the communication is often painful and somewhat difficult to manage. One of the more common forms of this condition accompanies the common cold. Along with a sore throat, the individual may experience hoarseness, making the voice raspy and difficult to modulate to a normal tone. If the infection worsens, the hoarseness may give way to laryngitis, which further impairs the ability to speak clearly.
Along with the common cold and the accompanying throat infection, organic dysphonia may also be the result of a malfunction of the thyroid gland. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can negatively impact the function of the vocal cords, sometimes making it very hard to speak at a normal level. Treating the underlying thyroid disorder will often help to restore vocal function to normal levels.
Trauma to the vocal cord nodules can also lead to dysphonia. This can include a blow directly to the throat, or the penetration of a foreign object that damages the vocal cords. In situations of this type, surgery may be required to repair the damage and allow a period of healing to take place. As the healing progresses, the individual will find it easier to produce intelligible speech with increasing clarity and a decrease in pain.
The development of tumors can also lead to dysphonia. A malignant growth pressing against the vocal cords may produce a raspy voice or lead to a great deal of pain when the individual attempts to speak. Removing the tumor will allow the vocal chords to heal, gradually restoring a normal voice and allowing the individual to speak without experiencing pain.
There are other causes that can lead to different forms of dysphonia. Smoking can produce a raspy voice that is a more or less permanent condition. Mental disorders may impair the ability to control the function of the vocal cords properly. Inhaling corticosteroids also increase the potential for some type of this condition to develop.
While many forms of dysphonia can be successfully treated and restore normal vocal function, it is necessary to seek treatment early in order to avoid permanent damage. A qualified physician can assess the condition of the patient, and administer the appropriate medications and strategies to deal with the situation. Waiting until the condition has progressed significantly makes it much harder to overcome the problem and may lead to a permanent loss of at least some vocal function.