Vocal Cords and Asthma

  • 1st Revision: HA
  • 2nd Revision: Wasi Karim
  • 3rd Revision: Sophia Bradshaw

What is the difference between vocal cord dysfunction and asthma? 

Asthma is an immune system disorder in response to allergens in the body, while vocal cord dysfunction is not. Vocal cord dysfunction happens with the same triggers like lung irritants and exercise, but in this condition, the vocal cord muscles tighten resulting in upper airways of the lung exhibiting trauma. Asthma is when the muscles of the bronchial tubes tighten. It is also a disease affecting the lower respiratory tracts

Signs and symptoms, while being very similar, there is a key difference between the two conditions; that inhaling with vocal cord dysfunction causes more irritation than exhaling out, and asthma medications do not help in reducing symptoms. 

What are the treatments for asthma? 

There are two main types of asthma medications: long relief medications and quick inhalers. Long-acting beta agonists, Anticholinergics, and immune modulators are inhaled corticosteroids used daily or regularly as an effective method of preventing attacks. 

Quick-relief medications such as bronchodilators like Albuterol, ProventilHFA, Ventolin HFA, are beta agonist drugs used for instant relief whenever breathing gets difficult in order to prevent a full blown asthma attack. Inhalers, nebulizers and pills are also available as asthma medications. Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs are not advised. 

What are the typical symptoms of a severe asthma attack? 

According to Mayo.clinic.org, symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Inability to breathe while lying down
  • Inability to speak 
  • Tightness in chest
  • Bluish tint to lips 
  • Getting up or sitting quite frequently to be able to breathe
  • Inability to concentrate, dizziness and confusion. 
  • Shoulder and neck muscle pain

What happens to the body during an asthma attack? 

During an asthma attack three things happen:

  • Bronchospasm: The airways around the bronchial tubes constrict. This makes the airways narrow and prevents air from flowing through the airways. 
  • Inflammation: The constricted airways become sites of immune reaction and result in swelling of the airways causing inflammation. 
  • Mucus production: The body creates more mucus clogging airways making breathing extremely difficult. 

How do you monitor asthma symptoms? 

Patients should keep a journal or diary and write down symptoms, triggers, episodes and usage of quick-relief nebulizers on a daily basis. One can also use health tracking apps, smartphones and electronic devices that allow you to add notes and receive notifications on a regular basis. 

A peak flow meter is also another way to monitor asthma, especially in children. There are also websites like Baylor college of medicine rules of two and Asthma control test that allows you to take self-diagnostic quizzes to check if the disease is controlled or not. 

What should you do if you have a severe asthma attack?

If you are having a severe asthma attack it is important to use quick-relief medications and get to emergency care immediately. Use your inhaler every 30-60 seconds until emergency care is reached.

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aarthi Narayan

Master of Science (M.S.), Biological science, University of Illinois Chicago

Scientist with 10+ years of strong industry, academic experience in Molecular biology, Tissue culture, Protein purification techniques. Mid-level experience in Diagnostics and start-ups. Excellent at completing large scale projects and experiments with minimal supervision in a timely and efficient manner.

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