Vocal cord dysfunction in children and adolescents

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2003 Nov;3(6):467-72. doi: 10.1007/s11882-003-0056-z.


Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is a nonorganic disorder of the larynx that involves unintentional paradoxical adduction of the vocal cords while breathing. The resultant symptoms can include dyspnea, chest tightness, cough, throat tightness, wheezing, or voice change. Most patients with VCD are female, and among adolescents and children, VCD tends to be triggered by exercise and is typically confused with exercise-induced asthma. Both gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and psychiatric illness have been reported as having strong associations with VCD, although, to date, there is no evidence that either causes VCD. VCD often coexists with asthma, and should be suspected in any patient in whom asthma treatment fails. Confirming the diagnosis involves direct visualization of abnormal vocal cord motion, and this usually only occurs during symptoms. Adolescent athletes often require free running exercise challenge to reproduce their symptoms and confirm abnormal vocal cord motion laryngoscopically. The primary treatment for VCD involves a combination of patient education and speech therapy, and, in most cases, patients may resume their activities without significant limitation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced / complications
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Speech Therapy
  • Spirometry
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis* / complications
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis* / diagnosis
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis* / therapy
  • Vocal Cords / physiopathology