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Voice, Breathing, and Swallowing Treatment Discussed

December 2, 2019
Voice, breathing, or swallowing problems? There’s help.

If you have issues with your voice, breathing, or swallowing that have lasted for more than four to five weeks, it may be time to talk with a laryngologist. Dr. Shumon Dhar, a laryngologist at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC, discussed symptoms such as persistent hoarseness, food frequently getting stuck in the throat, and difficulty breathing, and what patients can do to get help.

“These issues develop over time and can be very complex to diagnose,” he explained to WMAR News’ Christian Schaffer. “Some people live with problems that are having a significant negative impact on their quality of life for five, 10, 15 years before they receive the correct diagnosis, so seeing a specialist in laryngology sooner can lead to a correct diagnosis more quickly and treatment that will markedly improve your quality of life.”

Dr. Dhar explained that a tiny organ, the larynx, which is also known as the voice box, controls your voice, swallowing, and breathing. The vocal cords, which are just one to two centimeters long, can sustain an injury to the muscle, nerve, or lining of the cords. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and chronic acid reflux can also affect the larynx.

The process of diagnosing problems with the larynx starts with listening to the patient’s voice and description of the problem, then examining the vocal cords in the office with high resolution, digital endoscopy. There are a number of treatment options for these voice, breathing, and swallowing problems related to the larynx, from therapy to medical treatments and surgeries, many of which can now be safely performed in the office without general anesthesia.

“I focus on my patients’ quality of life,” added Dr. Dhar. “You should be able to communicate, breathe, and eat what you want to eat. You don’t have to live with these problems.”
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