Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion
Paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM) is often called “vocal cord dysfunction” by allergists and pulmonologists. This is a rare problem that is frequently misdiagnosed as asthma. It tends to occur in young athletes and in patients with reflux disease.
During normal respiration, the vocal folds tend to move outward during inspiration (breathing in). They not move much during normal quiet respiration, but they should always be open during breathing. The vocal folds normally close during voicing, coughing, and swallowing. In PVFM, the vocal folds tend to close during inspiration, which is the opposite of what they should do (thus the term “paradoxical vocal fold motion”). This can result in noisy breathing that may be mistaken for asthma and can be very frightening.
PVFM is almost always manageable with a combination of reflux treatment and respiratory training exercises. When this problem is suspected, your otolaryngologist and speech language pathologist will work closely together to help manage the process.
If you are an athlete who is experiencing problems like PVFM, come to your appointment prepared to run. Most likely, we will look at your vocal folds while you are breathing normally and then again after your symptoms occur during exercise.