C., a 15-year-old girl, has always played volleyball.
Suddenly it began to happen that only a few minutes before entering the field she C. she began to have breathlessness and shortness of breath. The repetition of her symptoms with regularity and constancy were making her frustrated and worried, causing her to breathe even worse. If it happened that all this happened on the field, she asked to get out immediately.
Wheezing and shortness of breath were classic signs for her doctor: exercise-induced asthma symptoms, so she prescribed a bronchodilator to use before physical activity and before the game to prevent respiratory problems.
Since the treatment was not successful, she C. and her team doctor took another therapeutic approach with asthma and allergy medications, including corticosteoids to treat inflammation of the airways. Once again, game after game, C. kept going off the pitch for the same problem.
Determined to find the cause, her family members took her to a pulmonologist who, working as a team with a speech therapist, visited her and, after listening to her story, they were immediately quite sure that what was causing these difficulties was not asthma, but a form very similar: vocal cord dysfunction (VCD).
The speech therapist explained that this dysfunction gives the same signs and symptoms as asthma. However, since the asthma therapy had not given results, there had to be a suspicion that it was VCD.
This is a disorder in which the vocal cords move in the wrong direction when you inhale, closing instead of opening, and it is very much related to stress, anxiety and physical exercise. C. she reflected several cases already seen by the two doctors.
At the moment of inhalation, the vocal cords open to allow air to reach the lungs and come closer together when exhaling. Most people cannot control opening and closing, but it is possible to learn how to use the vocal cords to speak and sing.
If you are in the presence of VCD, the ropes suddenly close when they don't have to, preventing air from entering. This often happens during physical activity or when you are emotionally stressed or if you cry, just when you need more air!
Symptoms of this dysfunction include:
- wheezing or screeching (whistling when breathing)
- chronic cough or need for throat clearing
- shortness of breath
- stiffness of the upper chest or throat
- intermittent hoarseness
The medical team sent me C. immediately after the diagnosis to perform Osteopathic Treatments that could improve the respiratory condition and dynamics and to perform some techniques of laryngeal manipulation to 'unlock' and re-harmonize the cords, following C. in parallel by a speech therapist for the re-education of sounds.
I saw C. this week for a checkup and to date, after a fairly short period of treatment, she has no longer had the disorder.