Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal Cord Dysfunction is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD): a breathing disorder in which vocal cords adduct inappropriately. This occurs primarily on inspiration and produces airflow obstruction that may result in dyspnea, wheezing, and stridor.
  • Synonym(s): paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM)


Not well defined

  • Unknown; likely uncommon in the general population
  • Most frequently diagnosed in patients evaluated for asthma and exercise-induced dyspnea
  • Female predominance, 2:1 (1)
  • 71% of patients are adults and 29% of patients <18 years of age; also, has been diagnosed in young children/infants (1)
  • Suspect occurrence in approximately 3% of intercollegiate athletes with exercise-induced asthma (2).

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Exact etiology is unclear—both organic and nonorganic causes have been identified.
  • Possible laryngeal hyperresponsiveness to irritants, such as smoke, dust, postnasal drip, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), URI, or other irritants (3)
  • Noncompetitive and competitive exercises—unknown mechanism (4)
  • Psychological factors such as anxiety, severe social stresses (e.g., competitive sports), history of sexual abuse (2)

None defined

Risk Factors

See “Commonly Associated Conditions.”

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Asthma
  • GERD
  • Rhinosinusitis
  • Psychological conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and panic disorder

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