Pop stars Adele and Ariana (Grande) had vocal cord hemorrhages. Other famous singers did too. What exactly is a vocal hemorrhage? What causes it? How is it treated? And, most importantly, will a voice return to normal, or can a vocal hemorrhage end a singer’s career?
What causes a Vocal Cord Hemorrhage?
Vocal hemorrhages occur from vocal cord trauma and voice misuse/abuse. Typically it is the result of a forceful impact (shouting, yelling and screaming) during which the vocal cords slam against each. This trauma causes the blood vessels within the layers of the vocal cords to bleed and bruise similar to what happens under your nail when you slam your finger in the door. Vocal hemorrhages can also occur during prolonged voice use, or even during routine use when there is inflammation or infection associated with laryngitis.
Signs of Vocal Cord Hemorrhage
Vocal cord hemorrhages are not uncommon. Just like athletes, singers are at risk of injury from high levels of performance and even overexertion. Vocal hemorrhages are typically associated with sudden onset of painless hoarseness of the speaking and/or singing voice. Smokers with gradual onset of painless hoarseness are at risk of having vocal cord cancer and should see a specialist for immediate consultation.
How are Vocal Cord Hemorrhages Diagnosed?
A visit to an otolaryngologist (ears, nose and throat doctor) specializing in care of the professional voice is in order. Proper diagnosis is made by endoscopy (a special lighted and magnified examination of the vocal cords during phonation).
Treatment of Vocal Cord Hemorrhages
The use of steroids (often given for other causes of hoarseness) must be avoided as they can both cause the bleeding to increase, and they can mask other symptoms. Treatment of a vocal cord hemorrhage entails complete voice rest for up to two weeks, with interval endoscopic exams used to monitor the hemorrhage until it is gone.
What’s the Prognosis?
By following the doctor’s prescription for complete voice rest, Ariana will likely have a long, monumental career. Failure to heed that advice can result in a premature and devastating end of her budding career. If you or someone you know has a voice problem, visit a otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) specializing in care of the professional voice for a comprehensive evaluation.
Read about the care of Ariana Grande’s vocal cord hemorrhage in Dr. Yagoda’s recent Surgeons Secret post.
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