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Vocal fold cysts are collections of fluid in sac-like formations on the vocal folds.

Cysts can deteriorate the quality of human speech production, causing diplophonia, a condition where the vocal cords produce multiple tones at the same time, or dysphonia, commonly known as lisping. Females are more likely than males to develop vocal fold cysts and the menstrual cycle may alter the size of the cyst. The cysts usually appear on one side of the vocal fold but may cause swelling on the opposite side due to irritation.

There are two types of vocal fold cysts: mucus retention and epithermoid.

  • Mucus retention cysts occur when a glandular duct becomes blocked and is unable to secrete. This can occur after an upper respiratory infection combined with vocal overuse.
  • Epidermoid cysts result from either developmental problems before birth or from an injury to the mucous membrane. A ruptured cyst may result in a scar.

Initial treatment of the cysts involves vocal training and speech therapy along with medical interventions to decrease irritation of the cyst. In many cases, these will alleviate problems from the cyst. In some cases, the cyst grows larger necessitating surgery to remove the cyst. Vocal professionals may also require surgery as the minimal steps do not improve the voice quality enough to allow continued performance with the voice.

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