When an individual's ability to swallow normally is impaired, a swallowing disorder is present. Problems can include an inability to sufficiently move food to the back of the throat or trouble moving food through the esophageal tract. Aspiration occurs when food or liquid enters the trachea instead of the esophagus. Aspiration is a serious matter, and can lead to recurring pneumonia as well as a blocked airway and an inability to properly breathe. Swallowing disorders are caused by a number of factors, including degenerative disease affecting the nervous system, tumors within the throat, or the aftereffects of a stroke.
When an individual experiences changes in their vocal function, vocal cord nodules and polyps are often the cause. Nodules and polyps are both growths that can occur on either one or both of the patient's vocal cords. Vocal abuse such as yelling or otherwise straining the vocal cords can lead to nodules and polyps. Nodules appear as soft, swollen spots. Polyps are usually larger than nodules and sometimes appear on a stalk or in a blister-like shape. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of treatment options available for patients suffering from vocal disorders. Behavioral changes are effective for some patients, such as changing the way that the voice is used. Surgical intervention is an option for patients who have suffered from vocal disorders for a significant length of time and for whom other treatment options have been unsuccessful.
While throat cancer is not a common occurrence, individuals who are suffering from difficulty in normal vocal or swallowing function should always seek treatment to determine the source of the problem. In some cases, cancerous cell growth within the thyroid gland first becomes apparent through impaired ability to swallow properly or through changes in an individual's voice. Thyroid cancer is rare, but the treatment outlook for patients suffering from this disease is good, primarily because so many cases are caught in the earliest stages of the disease.