Treatment for Vocal Cord Nodules

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

If you’ve been diagnosed with vocal cord nodules, also called vocal fold nodules or singer’s nodules, the good news is these nodules are not serious. They are not signs of cancer or any grave condition. However, having nodules does affect the quality of your voice and if you use your voice a lot, especially professionally, this can impact your life. So, what can you do about vocal cord nodules? Do you need surgery to remove them or can you take care of this on your own? 

Vocal Cord Nodules Treatment at Home

Vocal cord nodules are caused by excessive use or misuse of your voice. The rubbing or friction of your vocal cords cause the nodules to form, just as a callus may form on your hand. And, just like the callus, if you stop putting pressure or friction on the area, the node will usually go away. Therefore, the first recommendation a doctor may give you is to stop using your voice.

Not talking means not even whispering. When you speak, your vocal cords vibrate, allowing you to make sound. Whispering doesn’t eliminate the vibrations, so your cords will not rest. If you must speak, speak in a calm, even, measured tone, using as few words as possible. The longer you can rest your vocal cords, the better. 

You can also try these vocal cord nodules home remedies:

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to introduce moisture in the air.
  • Drink extra fluids like water or juice to hydrate your body.
  • Avoid dehydrating drinks like coffee and alcohol.
  • If you have airborne allergies, ask your doctor what medications may help or use an air purifier.
  • If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, ask your doctor how you may treat it.
  • Don’t smoke.

Vocal Hygiene

Your doctor may recommend you work with a speech therapist to improve your vocal hygiene. Vocal hygiene is not oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), but rather taking care of your voice as mentioned above. A speech therapist can help you learn how to breathe in a more efficient way to help you project your voice. You may also learn how to relax your neck muscles or what vocal exercises to do before speaking or singing.

Vocal Nodules Surgery

It may seem that vocal cord nodules surgery is common because we may hear about a favorite singer or performer stopping a tour because they need surgery for nodules. However, surgery is not common for this problem. Surgery is only an option if home care and vocal hygiene haven’t been effective or if the nodules are having a significant impact on your quality of life or ability to earn a living. 

Laser surgery is the least invasive type of surgical treatment. Often done in a doctor’s office or clinic, your otolaryngologist, also called an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, inserts a narrow long tube called a scope into your nose. The scope is threaded down your throat to your vocal cords. There is a laser at the tip of the scope, which the doctor uses to eliminate the nodule.

If laser surgery isn’t an option, the nodule can be removed by excision, or cut out with a procedure called microlaryngoscopy. Using a similar type of scope with a camera on the end, the doctor uses tiny instruments to cut out the nodule. 

Vocal Nodules Surgery Recovery

After undergoing surgery for vocal cord nodules, it is important to rest your vocal cords so they can heal. This means no talking, singing or whispering at all for a few days. Your doctor will tell you for how long. Also avoid clearing your throat as this can irritate your cords. Voice therapy with a speech therapist is usually necessary once the initial recovery period is over so the nodules don’t return. 

There are a few risks involved in the surgery, however. Like all surgical procedures, there is always a risk of pain and infection. If you experience an increase in pain, you feel as if there is something caught in your throat and you need to clear it frequently, or you have a fever, contact your doctor right away. Other complications could include bleeding, injury to the vocal cords, and a permanent change in your voice. 

Vocal cord nodules can be annoying, but they aren’t a danger to your health. Taking care of your throat and how you use your voice can help treat them, with surgery being a last resort.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 22
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