What are vocal cord cysts?

A vocal cord cyst is a non-cancerous lump or sac, usually found within the vocal cord. The sac may be filled with fluid (mucous cyst) or may be more solid (keratin cyst).

During normal speech, the vocal cords vibrate open and closed. If you have a cyst, your vocal cords may not vibrate properly and may not close completely. This can change how your voice sounds.

What do vocal cord cysts look like?

Cysts look like a sac or bean – they are usually round and translucent. If a cyst is very small, it may be difficult to see.

Image of 3 vocal cords. The first is normal, the second and third show vocal cords with cysts.
Image of 3 vocal cords. The first is normal, the second and third show vocal cords with cysts.

Images courtesy of Lucian Sulica, MD. www.voicemedicine.com

What are the symptoms?

  • Hoarse or croaky voice
  • Voice loss after shouting or talking loudly
  • Voice breaks at a particular pitch when singing
  • Feeling of a lump in your throat
  • Wanting to clear your throat often

What causes vocal cord cysts?

Keratin cysts may be caused by “phonotrauma”. This is putting increased pressure on your vocal cords by heavy voice use, shouting or straining your voice. Mucous cysts may form when mucous glands in the vocal cord become blocked.

How are vocal cord cysts treated?

A cyst will rarely go away on its own. These are some things which may help:

  • Resting your voice or talking less
  • Looking after your voice – drinking plenty of water, avoiding shouting and screaming, and controlling any acid reflux
  • Voice therapy with a Speech Pathologist can help you learn how to look after your voice and use your voice well. Voice therapy will not make the cyst go away but it may stop it from getting worse.
  • Surgery – this is usually the main treatment for cysts. The cyst will be removed by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon under general anaesthetic. There is no guarantee your voice will return to normal after surgery, but voice therapy is usually recommended to help healing and improve your voice as much as you can.

If you have any questions please see your Speech Pathologist or ENT doctor for more information and advice.

Disclaimer This document describes the generally accepted practice at the time of publication only. It is only a summary of clinical knowledge regarding this area. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital makes no warranty, express or implied, that the information contained in this document is comprehensive. They accept no responsibility for any consequence arising from inappropriate application of this information.

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  • Vocal Cord Cysts #35
  • Owner: Speech Pathology
  • Last Reviewed: March 22, 2021
  • Next Review: March 22, 2026