Reinke's Edema exampleReinke’s edema is a benign voice condition characterized by a build-up of fluid in the top layer of the vocal folds, most often occurring on both sides. 

Causes of Reinke's Edema

Reinke’s edema most often occurs due to long-standing trauma or chronic exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke or acid reflux/laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)

Symptoms of Reinke's Edema

Symptoms may include hoarseness/raspiness, a deeper speaking pitch, difficulty singing the high notes, sensation of effortful voicing, and in some cases, shortness of breath. 

Reinke's Edema Diagnosis 

Our voice care team at the Voice and Swallowing Disorders Center has the advanced training and skills necessary to diagnose this voice condition. During the initial visit, you will be assessed by one of our laryngologists and likely, an additional session with one of our voice pathologists. We use cutting-edge diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your voice disorder and to develop your plan of care. Following a thorough discussion of your symptoms and medical history, be expected to undergo the following assessments: 
  • Video Laryngostroboscopy: Using a small camera inserted through the nose or mouth, our specialists are able to assess the health and function of your larynx (voice box) and determine the presence of any vocal fold growths or abnormalities.

  • Perceptual, Acoustic, and Aerodynamic Voice Evaluation: This is a comprehensive assessment of multiple voice parameters completed by the voice pathologist.

Non-Surgical Treatment of Reinke's Edema

If a long-standing history of smoking is suspected as the cause of Reinke’s edema, it is critical for patients to stop smoking to help prevent the condition from worsening over time. If Laryngopharyngeal reflux is the underlying cause of Reinke’s edema, LPR is often managed with dietary and lifestyle modifications and/or prescription medications. In some cases, voice therapy with special attention to efficient and healthy voice use may help to reduce some symptoms including vocal effort/fatigue. However, voice therapy techniques will not eliminate the fluid build-up that is characteristic of Reinke’s edema. 

Surgical Treatment of Reinke's Edema

Surgical options include removal of the fluid build-up through laryngeal microsurgery, laser treatment, or a combination of both. It is important for patients to understand that Reinke’s edema does not have to be treated; however, the voice does not usually spontaneously improve without surgical intervention.