So I was diagnosed with Vocal Cord Dysfunction on Monday. For all of you who were like me until I was given the assignment by my doc to look it up before my testing and don't know what that is I will explain because I think its pretty important.
VCD or Vocal Cord Dysfunction is a rare disorder occuring more commonly in women than men. In VCD a trigger sets off an abnormal signal from the brain to the vocal cords causing them to close when you breath instead of staying open and relaxed. This creates a feeling of tightness in the throat and you literally cannot get air in. It can be accompied by asthma, but is also often misdiagnosed as asthma. Triggers for VCD include strongs smells, chemicals, exercise, dust, illness, stress, and many more. Luckily VCD is treated more behaviorly. You don't need any medication instead the speech and language pathologist who does your test will teach you about relaxed breathing and stretching so that you can control your attacks.
Testing for VCD is actually pretty easy compared to testing for many things. It is done by a speech and langauge pathologist. At first you just talk, you talk about your symptoms and you go through an interview with them asking about different things that can be possible clues of VCD. Also if you have asthma they try and pinpoint the timeline of that. Then comes the some what more scary part. They put a camera up through your nose and down into your throat. If your doctor has ordered it they will numb your nose first so that you don't feel it. Then once they get the camera into your throat they have you do a variety of things to see if they can see signs of VCD.
The looking with the camera isn't a tell all test. They rely much more on the interview and their opinions because just because they don't see signs or see an attack doesn't mean it isn't happening. At the end they talk through the video with you and what they saw and what their opinion is.
For me I have VCD and Asthma however a lot of the triggers are the same. When I had my testing done I was really nervous but the speech and language pathologist I worked with was amazingly nice! She talked to me about my asthma and made it clear up front that no one was disputing that I had asthma but they thought I might have VCD too. We went through my asthma timeline together and then through the interview with her asking me all sorts of questions everything from about my family, to school, to if I had acid reflux. Then she told me she believed I had VCD but she still wanted to do the camera test to see if she could see it but that the test wasn't the final decision. Before we did the test she taught me a series of stretches and a series of breathing exercises to do everday. She told me how often she wanted to do them. She then numbed me up because my doc had ordered the numbing meds if I wanted them ( which I did I wasn't going to be stupid, I had had this test done once before without them and it hurt like heck) then we let them set in and she got the camera ready. After that she put in quite quickly cuz I didn't object and then had me count to ten, count to 100 as loud and as fast as possible, sniff and count to ten again. Then the test was over, but with some interesting results. You could see my right side especially collapse in. At one point she had tried to get closer and I felt something weird like I need to swallow or clear my throat or something turns out it was just that my vocal cord was collapsing and it was tremoring. So we could see the signs of VCD. She explained the video to me when the test was over including where my vocal cord collaped and tremored. She said she would send it to my docs and that even though it was hard she too believed it may be for the best that I did not take chemistry lab anymore because it was a strong trigger and being in there for so long was likely to set off an attack no matter what I did. She then told me she wanted to see me at least twice more so that if I had questions I could get them answered and that we could just sit and talk and go over how things were going and also revist my exercises. So I will see her once every two weeks for a month and then we will go from there. She also gave me her card with name number and email so that if I have questions I can call or email she said that she knows being that I am a college student I probably email more than anything and that is a totally fine way to contact her. I thought that was cool because it is totally true. If I call I may or may not get a hold of her and then I have to make I am by my phone and then I am not I have to call her back ... but with email I can just send it to her clearly laying out my questions and then she can email me back knowing that I will for sure get it.
Now I am learning to live with VCD. I have make sure most of the things I have are scent free because scented things could cause an attack of both asthma and VCD. I have to find time to do the stretches and breathing exercises that I need to practice and she wants done so that when I do have an attack I can switch into this type of breathing effortlessly. I have to remember to make changes in my breathing and to be a lot more aware of my muscles in my shoulders, upper back and neck because if I get tension there I can get tension in Vocal Cords because they are muscles too and that will cause an attack. I have to keep managing my stress because it can set off stress. Its a life change but its good to know that its going on because there where times I felt that I literally wasn't getting my asthma meds down far enough and this was why now I know how to control it.
If you think you have VCD talk to your doctor!!! It's really important because you need to get it under control if you don't you literally could pass out and go into a coma. I was very close to doing that multiple times. Also if you have been diagnosed with Asthma and your meds don't seem to work ask your doctor about VCD because it may have been a misdiagnosis!
I hope this is helpful to at least one person.