The voice box is called the larynx, and its most important components are two mobile pieces of soft tissue, one on the left and right side, called vocal cords. The larynx has a number of functions but the main 2 are protecting our lungs when we swallow and voice production.
Patients are reviewed with voice disorders which vary from mild to potentially life threatening. A hoarse voice may be due to swelling, nodules, cysts, polyps, scar tissue, movement disorders of the vocal cords, or even throat cancer.
We recommend that anyone with a voice change which persists for more than 3 weeks should have their voice box assessed by an ENT surgeon.
Swallowing is a highly complex task which requires coordination at multiple levels and sites from the brain and mouth down to the stomach.
Patients are reviewed with complaints such as feeling a “lump in the throat”, pain on swallow, choking sensation, food and drink getting stuck or requiring multiple swallows to go down. This may represent something as simple as reflux affecting the larynx, be part of nerve or muscle disorder or be a clue to a possible cancer. We can assess all patients for these conditions.
Assessment & Treatment
All patients are interviewed regarding their symptoms and then examined appropriately. Almost all patients will have a direct examination of their voice box with a flexible or rigid telescope. In addition, some patients will require examination via highly specialised equipment called a “strobe”.
Treatment depends on the overall assessment and may include a combination of medication, speech or swallow therapy or even surgery in some select cases. Dr Athanasiadis is trained in all areas of surgery to the larynx. Depending on the condition, these can be performed quickly and efficiently under local anaesthetic while awake or using microscopic instruments with high magnification under general anaesthetic.
Voice loss that comes with age
Unfortunately one thing that may happen naturally with time is the loss of voice as one gets older. Previously it was suggested nothing could be done about this. However, this is not true. There are relatively simple restorative procedures that can make a huge benefit to the strength of your voice, and furthermore many of these can be done in the office, without the need for a general anaesthetic. So if you or someone you know has vocal deterioration associated with their age, please be assured there is no need to suffer in silence.
Dr Theo will be consulting on the Sunshine Coast and will be only too happy to provide patients with an expert opinion regarding their voice and swallowing problems. Please feel free to discuss this with your GP, speech therapist, gastroenterologist, neurologist, or other specialists you may be already seeing regarding the types of problems you may be encountering.