10 Surprising Facts About Vocal Cord Nodules

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN on June 22, 2021
  • female singer in recording room
    How Much Do You Know About Vocal Cord Nodules?
    Vocal cord nodules are quite common. You may have heard of vocal cord nodules referred to as vocal fold nodules or singer’s nodules, but many people don’t know what they are, who gets them, what vocal cord nodule symptoms are, how they’re diagnosed, or how they may be prevented. Here are 10 vocal cord nodule facts you may not know.
  • professor giving lecture among large audience
    1. Vocal cord nodules don’t affect just singers.
    Most of us have heard of a singer or performer who had to postpone a tour because of vocal cord nodules. But anyone who uses their voice can develop them. Any time you use your voice or make a sound, your vocal cords vibrate and rub against each other. So, anyone who uses their voice for long or explosive periods, like teachers, aerobic exercise or spinning instructors, preachers, even radio hosts, are all at risk of developing vocal cord nodules. People cheering at sports games or shouting in a loud bar can also develop these nodules.
  • conductor directing choir on stage
    2. Vocal cord nodules can also affect children.
    Children of all ages can develop vocal cord nodules if they scream, cry or yell a lot or even very forcefully in one or two spurts. Some children and teens participate in activities, like cheerleading, that could strain their voices. Others irritate their vocal cords by cheering for a school team, playing in the school yard, or trying to talk in a loud environment like at a dance. If your child’s voice is hoarse for two or three weeks, or his voice is cracking and you know it’s not related to puberty, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for an evaluation.
  • hand with callus
    3. Vocal cord nodules are like calluses.
    If you see calluses on someone’s hand, you know they’ve worked hard with that hand. Calluses are caused by rubbing and pressure on the patch or spot of skin over and over again. Otolaryngologists, also called ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors, often compare vocal cord nodules to calluses because they too are caused by rubbing and pressure along the same spot, but on the vocal cords. And, as with a callus, if you stop the rubbing and irritation in that spot, it can soften and go away.
  • male holding cigarette and shot glass
    4. There are other risk factors aside from how you use your voice.
    There are some risk factors that could increase your risk of developing vocal cord nodules aside from prolonged or misuse of your voice. Your vocal cords need to be moist to be at their best, so smoking, drinking caffeine and alcohol, and being in a very dry environment can cause the cords to be easily irritated. Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and allergies to airborne allergens, like pollen and dust, increase that risk too. Using your throat to project your voice and not warming up are also not good for your voice.
  • young woman with sore throat in doctor's exam room
    5. You don’t usually feel vocal cord nodules.
    Vocal cord nodules can be tiny and difficult to see, or they could be as large as a pea. As the nodule gets larger, you may feel a lump in your throat or even some pain, but generally the only symptoms you may have are a hoarse voice, cracking or scratchy voice, difficulty changing your pitch or using your whole range, or a new airy quality to your voice. You may also feel as if you need to frequently clear your throat or cough.
  • Young African American woman drinking water from glass bottle at home office desk
    6. Vocal hygiene is key in reducing the risk of vocal cord nodules.
    Vocal hygiene isn’t the same thing as oral hygiene, which focuses on how you clean your teeth. Vocal hygiene is a term that ENT doctors and speech therapists use to encourage proper use of your voice to help you avoid the formation of vocal cord nodules. Vocal hygiene includes a list of things not to do, such as shouting, and things you should do, like keeping hydrated. When necessary, a speech therapist can also teach you how to breathe in a way to effectively project your voice without shouting, and how to relax your neck muscles to protect your cords.
  • young woman with finger on lips, close-up
    7. Whispering is not a cure for vocal cord nodules.
    Often, when someone’s voice becomes hoarse, they start to whisper. Unfortunately, whispering is not a solution to help treat vocal cord nodules because your vocal cords still vibrate and rub. The best solution is to stop using your voice all together and if you must speak, do so in a regular, measured, even tone and for as short a time as possible. The best thing to protect your vocal cords from developing more nodes or from the ones you have getting bigger is to not allow the cords to move at all. In other words, be completely silent.
  • ear, nose and throat doctor examining mouth and throat of senior woman
    8. Vocal cord nodule surgery is not common.
    Most cases of vocal cord nodules do not require surgery. By resting your voice and practicing good vocal hygiene, chances are very good your nodules will shrink and go away on their own. That being said, if the nodules are affecting your quality of life, particularly if they are causing pain, surgery may be the next step. Your doctor has a couple of options, either removing the nodules by laser therapy or by excising them, or cutting them out. If surgery is in your future, ask your doctor which method you will undergo.
  • medical professional hold a model of the human larynx (voice box)
    9. Vocal cord nodules are not cancerous.
    Vocal cord nodules are benign, which means they are not cancerous or even pre-cancerous. These nodules are made of tissue that has toughened up and maybe caused scarring. Having vocal cord nodules doesn’t put you at risk for developing cancer any more than having a callus on your hand does. Any pain or discomfort the nodules may cause are the result of pressure on the surrounding tissue, and this feeling should go away once the nodules get smaller and disappear, or if they are removed.
  • female performers playing piano and singing while practicing
    10. Vocal cord nodules can return.
    Just as a callus can return if you start to do the same tasks with your hand, vocal cord nodules can return if you don’t practice good vocal hygiene. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your doctor for a referral to a speech therapist who will guide you through breathing and relaxation exercises and educate you on what to watch for that might contribute to nodule formation.
10 Surprising Vocal Cord Nodule Facts | Vocal Fold Nodules

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 22
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