What are vocal cord polyps?

A polyp is a non-cancerous lump usually found in the middle of the vocal cord.  Polyps usually occur on one of the vocal cords, but can form in pairs, opposite each other.

During normal speech, the vocal cords vibrate open and closed.  If you have a polyp, your vocal cords may not vibrate properly and may not close completely.

What do vocal cord polyps look like?

Polyps are usually red and have a distinct edge.  They can be smooth or round, and may be different in size and shape.  Sometimes, polyps are attached by a stalk, like the neck of a balloon.

Vocal cord polys image
This image shows 3 vocal cords. The first shows normal vocal cords in an open position. The second and third show vocal cord polyps.

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

What are the symptoms?

  • Hoarse voice
  • Voice loss after shouting or talking loudly
  • Feeling of a lump in your throat
  • Wanting to clear your throat often

What causes vocal cord polyps?

Polyps are often caused by “phonotrauma” – increased stress on your vocal cords through heavy voice use, shouting or straining your voice.  This can cause bleeding of the small blood vessels in the vocal cords which can then cause a polyp.

How are vocal cord polyps treated?

Polyps will rarely go away by themselves.  These are some things which may help:

  • Rest your voice or talk 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 polyp go away but it may stop it from getting worse.  If the polyp is very small, voice therapy may make your voice better without the need for surgery.
  • Surgery – this is usually the main treatment for polyps.  The polyp(s) will be removed by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon under general anaesthetic.  Voice therapy is usually recommended before and after surgery to help healing and help you use your voice well.  In most cases, polyps will not come back after being removed.

If you have any questions about vocal cord polyps, 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 Polyps #35
  • Owner: Speech Pathology
  • Last Reviewed: March 22, 2021
  • Next Review: March 22, 2026