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Throat And Voice
About Your Voice
What Is Voice?
“Voice” is the sound made by vibration of the vocal cords caused by air passing out through the larynx bringing the cords closer together. Your voice is an extremely valuable resource and is the most commonly used form of communication. Our voice is invaluable for both our social interaction as well as for most people’s occupation. Proper care and use of your voice improves the likelihood of having a healthy voice for your entire lifetime.
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Common Problems That Affect your Voice
Hoarseness or other difficulties with talking may occur for many reasons and can be treated with medical and surgical therapies. One of the most important aspects of treating hoarseness (or other changes in voice) is following good habits to prevent voice and throat problems. In addition to treatment prescribed by the physician, it is important to follow these guidelines. Some of these suggestions may be recommended to help patients with sore throats, chronic cough or other upper respiratory ailments.
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. Normally, food travels from the mouth, down through the esophagus and into the stomach. A ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), contracts to keep the acidic contents of the stomach from “refluxing” or coming back up into the esophagus. In those who have GERD, the LES does not close properly, allowing acid to move up the esophagus.
When stomach acid touches the sensitive tissue lining the esophagus, it causes a reaction similar to squirting lemon juice in your eye. This is why GERD is often characterized by the burning sensation known as heartburn.
Occasional heartburn is normal. However, if heartburn becomes chronic, occurring more than twice a week, you may have GERD. Left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious health problems.
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Abnormal changes in the voice are called “hoarseness.” When hoarse, the voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained, or show changes in volume or pitch (depending on how high or low the voice is). Voice changes are related to disorders in the sound-producing parts (vocal folds) of the voice box (larynx). While breathing, the vocal folds remain apart. When speaking or singing, they come together and, as air leaves the lungs, they vibrate, producing sound. Swelling or lumps on the vocal folds hinder vibration, altering voice quality, volume, and pitch.
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Laryngeal (Voice Box) Cancer
Laryngeal cancer is not as well known by the general public as some other types of cancer, yet it is not a rare disease. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2005 almost 10,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer will be diagnosed, and close to 3,800 people will die from laryngeal cancer in the United States. Even for survivors, the consequences of laryngeal cancer can be severe with respect to voice, breathing, or swallowing. It is fundamentally a preventable disease though, since the primary risk factors for laryngeal cancer are associated with modifiable behaviors.
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Oral lesions (mouth sores) make it painful to eat and talk. Two of the most common recurrent oral lesions are fever blisters (also known as cold sores) and canker sores. Though similar, fever blisters and canker sores have important differences.
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When flow of saliva through the salivary gland slows down, material in the duct can form stones. These stones block the outflow of saliva, causing swelling and pain in the gland. Stones can form in any of the major salivary glands. These include the parotid gland and the submandibular gland.
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Smell & Taste
Problems with these senses have a big impact on our lives. Smell and taste contribute to our enjoyment of life by stimulating a desire to eat – which not only nourishes our bodies, but also enhances our social activities. When smell and taste become impaired, we eat poorly, socialize less, and feel worse. Smell and taste warn us of dangers, such as fire, poisonous fumes, and spoiled food. Loss of the sense of smell may indicate sinus disease, growths in the nasal passages, or, at times, brain tumors.
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Infections from viruses or bacteria are the main cause of sore throats and can make it difficult to talk and breathe. Allergies and sinus infections can also contribute to a sore throat. If you have a sore throat that lasts for more than five to seven days, you should see your doctor. While increasing your liquid intake, gargling with warm salt water, or taking over-the-counter pain relievers may help, if appropriate, your doctor may write you a prescription for an antibiotic.
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Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. This may be caused by many factors, most of which are temporary and not threatening. Difficulties in swallowing rarely represent a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder. When the difficulty does not clear up by itself in a short period of time, you should see an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon.
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The three most common treatments for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), oral appliances, and surgery. Two possible surgeries are the hyoid suspension and tongue suspension. Moderate to severe OSA usually has at least some significant degree of obstruction at all three major levels of the upper airway: 1 – the nose and nasopharynx, 2 – the oropharynx, and 3 – the hypopharynx. Hyoid and tongue suspension only affect #3 – the hypopharynx.
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Laryngeal Scope (in office &/or hospital)
Laryngoscopy (larynx + scopy) is a medical procedure that is used to obtain a view of the vocal folds and the glottis. Laryngoscopy may be performed to facilitate tracheal intubation during general anesthesia or cardiopulmonary resuscitation or for procedures on the larynx or other parts of the upper tracheobronchial tree.
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Sialolithiasis (salivary gland stone) is the most common disease of the salivary glands, affecting 12 in 1000 people in the adult population. It can occur at any age and most commonly occurs in the salivary gland that are located under your jaw, called submandibular glands. They also occur in the parotid gland, which is located in your cheek. These occur when calcium deposits in the duct of the gland, blocking the flow of saliva, causing pain and discomfort associated with eating. This page contains information about the symptoms and treatment of this common condition.
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Tonsillectomy and Adenoid Surgery
Tonsils and adenoids are the body’s first line of defense as part of the immune system. They “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose, but they sometimes become infected. At times, they become more of a liability than an asset and may even cause airway obstruction or repeated bacterial infections. Your ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist can suggest the best treatment options.
Tonsils and adenoids are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are the two round lumps in the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth or nose without special instruments.
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