What causes thickened vocal cords and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Thickened vocal cords, also known as cord thickening or vocal cord thickening, can be a distressing condition that affects the voice and overall vocal health. It can lead to hoarseness, difficulty speaking, and discomfort. Understanding the causes of thickened cords and the available treatment options is crucial for individuals experiencing this condition. In this article, we will explore the various factors that contribute to cord thickening and discuss effective ways to treat it.

Causes of Thickened Cords

Thickened vocal cords can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • 1. Vocal Strain: Excessive or improper use of the voice, such as yelling, screaming, or speaking loudly for extended periods, can strain the vocal cords and lead to thickening.
  • 2. Acid Reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid to flow back into the throat, irritating the vocal cords and causing inflammation and thickening.
  • 3. Smoking: Smoking cigarettes or exposure to secondhand smoke can irritate the vocal cords, leading to inflammation and thickening.
  • 4. Vocal Nodules or Polyps: These are noncancerous growths that can develop on the vocal cords due to vocal abuse or misuse. They can cause the cords to thicken and affect voice quality.
  • 5. Allergies or Respiratory Infections: Conditions like allergies or respiratory infections can cause inflammation in the throat, leading to thickened cords.

Treatment for Thickened Cords

When it comes to treating thickened vocal cords, it is essential to address the underlying cause. Here are some effective treatment options:

Vocal Rest and Hydration

One of the primary steps in treating thickened cords is vocal rest. This involves refraining from activities that strain the voice, such as speaking loudly or singing. Adequate hydration is also crucial to keep the vocal cords lubricated and prevent further irritation.


If acid reflux is the cause of cord thickening, medications such as proton pump inhibitors or antacids may be prescribed to reduce stomach acid and alleviate symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications can also help reduce inflammation in the vocal cords.

Voice Therapy

Voice therapy is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on improving vocal technique and reducing strain on the vocal cords. A speech-language pathologist can provide exercises and techniques to promote healthy vocal habits and reduce cord thickening.

Surgical Intervention

In cases where vocal nodules or polyps are causing thickened cords, surgical intervention may be necessary. This can involve the removal of the growths through a minimally invasive procedure. However, surgery is typically considered a last resort when other treatment options have been unsuccessful.

Prevention and Self-Care

Preventing thickened vocal cords involves adopting healthy vocal habits and taking care of your voice. Here are some tips:

  • 1. Avoid yelling or speaking loudly for extended periods.
  • 2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • 3. Limit or avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • 4. Practice good vocal hygiene by avoiding throat-clearing or coughing excessively.
  • 5. Use amplification devices when speaking in large or noisy environments.

By following these preventive measures and practicing self-care, you can reduce the risk of developing thickened vocal cords and maintain a healthy voice.


Thickened vocal cords can significantly impact an individual’s voice and overall well-being. Understanding the causes and treatment options is crucial for managing this condition effectively. By addressing the underlying causes, seeking appropriate treatment, and adopting preventive measures, individuals can improve their vocal health and reduce the risk of cord thickening. Remember, if you are experiencing persistent hoarseness or vocal discomfort, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a speech-language pathologist for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment