Voice & Swallowing Disorders

Lloyd M. Loft, MD, FACS -  - ENT Physician

Lloyd M. Loft, MD, FACS

Ear, Nose, & Throat Physician & Sinus Surgeon located in Upper East Side/Midtown East, New York, NY

Problems with your larynx (voice box) or the muscles that surround and support your throat can affect the ability to speak and swallow properly and can have a significant impact on the quality of our lives. Lloyd Loft, MD, FACS, is a highly trained and board-certified ear, nose, and throat physician with offices located on the Upper East Side, Midtown East, New York City. He offers expert diagnosis and treatment for a variety of voice and swallowing disorders, including hoarse voice, laryngitis, vocal cord nodules and polyps, vocal cord tumors, acid reflux (GERD), and difficulty or painful swallowing (dysphagia). Call Lloyd Loft, MD, FACS, or schedule a consultation online today.

Voice & Swallowing Disorders Q & A

What are common voice and swallowing disorders?

A hoarse voice can be the result of anything that causes inflammation, irritation, or infection of the vocal cords and interferes with their vibration or ability to close. The vocal cords are housed inside the larynx, also known as voicebox. When you breathe, your vocal cords are separated. However, when you speak, they come together and vibrate using the air exhaled from your lungs to produce sound. While laryngitis and a hoarse voice are common and often self-limited conditions frequently related to a cough or cold, a wide variety of other conditions can affect your voice, including:    

  • Laryngitis from virus or other infection
  • Laryngitis from vocal strain or voice abuse
  • Laryngitis from exposure to cigarette smoke or smoking 
  • Vocal cord nodules and polyps
  • Vocal cord tumors
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Vocal cord dysfunction from neurologic disease Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)

Swallowing might seem like a simple action, but it is actually a complex coordination of multiple muscles and nerves. Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, is a symptom that occurs when something interferes with this reflex. One of the most common causes of dysphagia is related to the pain and swelling from a throat infection. This is usually temporary and gets better on its own or with the treatment of the underlying infection. Chronic dysphagia is more common in the elderly but can occur at any age. Prolonged or severe difficulty swallowing can be a serious and occasionally life-threatening medical condition. Common causes of dysphagia include:  

  • Throat infections
  • Acid reflux (GERD)
  • Weakness or paralysis of the vocal cords
  • Throat and esophageal tumors
  • Weakness or incoordination of the esophagus
  • Narrowing of the esophagus
  • Neuromuscular diseases like multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke

When should I talk to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist about my symptoms?

Most cases of hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing are often mild and resolve within a few days or a week. When hoarseness and difficulty swallowing are severe or persistent, they can interfere with your ability to communicate, eat, drink, or even breathe. ENT physicians like Dr. Loft are uniquely qualified to evaluate voice and swallowing disorders. If you have persistent hoarseness or difficulty swallowing, you should call Dr. Loft ‘s office or make an appointment online.  

How are voice and swallowing disorders diagnosed?

If you have a voice or swallowing disorder, Dr. Loft performs a comprehensive exam to identify any problems with your larynx (voice box) and throat. This specialized exam usually includes the use of a flexible fiberoptic endoscope. This allows Dr. Loft to visualize the inside of your throat, vocal cords, and regions surrounding the entrance of your esophagus. This routine office procedure is usually well tolerated by patients and can be performed without the need for any sedation, and the results are available immediately. When the cause of your voice or swallowing disorder is not immediately obvious, further diagnostic tests would be ordered. These may include a CT scan or an MRI to look for any structural blockage or tumor. A modified barium swallow esophagram or functional endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) can often provide helpful information about the anatomy and function of the swallowing mechanism.     

How are voice and swallowing disorders treated?

Depending upon the severity of your symptoms and diagnosis, Dr. Loft will create a customized treatment plan. He may consult with other healthcare specialists, including speech-language pathologists (speech therapists), gastroenterologists, and neurologists, to more accurately diagnose and treat your underlying condition. Most cases of hoarseness related to viral laryngitis or vocal strain resolve with voice rest and proper hydration within a few days or a week or two. In cases of vocal cord nodules or polyps, referral for speech therapy is often the initial treatment, with surgery reserved for patients that do not improve. If a polyp or growth appears suspicious, then a biopsy to rule out a malignancy is recommended. If your sore throat or hoarse voice is related to acid reflux, then acid-blocking medication and dietary and lifestyle modifications are usually the initial recommendation. The treatment of severe or chronic difficulty swallowing is often more complex and frequently requires coordination of care with other health care professionals.

If you have a hoarse voice, sore throat, or difficulty swallowing, call Lloyd Loft, MD, FACS, or make an appointment online today.