Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) is a relatively unknown condition that causes a student athlete shortness of breath similar to asthma. However, they are completely different and need to be treated differently. VCD occurs when the vocal cords experience abnormal adduction, or partial closing of the airway. This adduction or partial closing would make the student athlete short of breath.
Because asthma also causes shortness of breath and is so common, VCD is often misclassified as asthma. Differences between the two conditions are as follows:
Inhaled drug therapy highly effective ineffective, aggravating
Induced by Irritants; allergens, exercise Irritants, stress, exercise
There are three main diagnostic criteria recognized for diagnosing Vocal Cord Dysfunction: clinical symptoms, laryngoscopy, and lung function tests. Management requires identifying and treating the underlying factors which cause VCD in a multidisciplinary approach. This may include pulmonologists, general internists, otolaryngologists, allergists, occupational medicine specialists, psychiatrists, speech therapists, and vocational counselors. Speech and language therapists contribute greatly in the management of VCD by identifying triggers and provide instruction in techniques of throat relaxation, cough suppression, and throat-clearing suppression. They also can teach student athletes breathing techniques, which control or reverse the adduction or closing of the vocal cords.
Jennifer Banfield, APRN, FNP and Kevin R. Murphy, MD. Differentiating Vocal Cord Dysfunction From Asthma. Focus on Asthma and COPD. June 2014 issue 9
James T C Li, M.D. Ph. D. What’s the difference between vocal cord dysfunction and asthma? Mayo Clinic ENewsletter. August 8, 2017