Overview of Vocal Cord Nodules

Diagnosing 3 Major Types

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Vocal cord nodules, also known as vocal fold cysts, are noncancerous growths that generally develop when a person somehow misuses or overuses their voice. The incidence of vocal fold nodules is unknown but the incidence is much higher among individuals who use their voices as part of their profession.

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In addition to nodules, polyps (an overgrowth of tissue that usually arises from a mucous membrane) and cysts (an undefined mass of tissue that is usually not cancerous) can also form on vocal cords.

Sometimes there is vocal cord thickening on the opposite side of the growth. Allergies and other irritants such as reflux laryngitis can also contribute to the formation of abnormal growths on the vocal cords.

Types of Vocal Cord Cysts

Three major types of cysts are commonly found on the vocal cords. Mucous retention cysts, are filled with clear fluid and originate from cells lining the respiratory tract. Poor voice hygiene is often the cause of mucous retention cysts. Epidermoid cysts, or squamous inclusion cysts, are made of epidermal (skin) cells and keratin. Epidermoid cysts most typically are caused by vocal cord abuse or excessive hard coughing. Oncocytic cysts, or salivary gland epithelial cysts, are rare and most commonly due to age.


Vocal cord cysts have a variety of symptoms which are unique to each individual. Some individuals with vocal cord cysts may experience the following symptoms:

  • hoarseness
  • pain
  • fatigue
  • a sudden loss of voice
  • difficulty singing at a certain pitch

Diagnosis of Vocal Cord Cysts

The diagnosis of vocal cords can be performed by laryngoscopy with a special light called a stroboscope, also known as videostroboscopy. This will allow your otolaryngologist to visually check your vocal cords and determine the impact the cyst has on the vocal cord's vibrations. Prior to any major treatment, your physician is likely to recommend voice rest and then repeat the laryngoscopy in order to visualize any changes that occurred while resting your voice.


The first treatment is actually just a removal of instigating risk factors. Voice rest will help, while proper voice hygiene can be taught by a speech therapist specializing in voice therapy. Often, speech therapy is beneficial. Speech therapists can teach you ways to reduce vocal cord abuse and use your voice more efficiently. Surgery is reserved for cases where your voice is significantly impacted and is not usually a first-line treatment.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Won SJ, Kim RB, Kim JP, Park JJ, Kwon MS, Woo SH. The prevalence and factors associate with vocal nodules in general population: Cross-sectional epidemiological studyMedicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(39):e4971. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000004971

  2. Vasconcelos D, Gomes AOC, Araújo CMT. Vocal Fold Polyps: Literature ReviewInt Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2019;23(1):116–124. doi:10.1055/s-0038-1675391

Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.