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CAN'T BREATHE? SUSPECT VOCAL CORD DYSFUNCTION!

by Carol Sidofsky

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) is a hidden, yet very, VERY common, usually unsuspected condition of throat closure &/or choking sensation that can strike any age, can cause sudden, severe episodes (attacks) of breathing difficulty, sometimes with wheezing (whistling or sighing sounds) &/or stridor (harsh, high pitched, ‘windy’ gasping sounds). In the Emergency Room (ER), VCD is usually misdiagnosed as being difficult (refractory, or brittle) asthma, anaphylaxis (severe, life threatening allergic reaction), or hysteria (all in one’s head).

VCD can feel like straining to breathe through a straw. Some cannot get any air in (or out) at all. Panic and fear of dying from feeling that one isn’t getting in enough air, often causes repeated ER visits or hospitalizations. 

The "throat" closure actually occurs inside the voice box (larynx), (behind the "Adam's apple") when the vocal cords go into a "closing-up" spasm.  (See drawing on web-page 1).

VCD attacks can happen at any time, including at night, while sleeping, or, at rest, when exercising, during or after meals, etc.

A VCD patient can have one, several, or even many causes of VCD.

Many doctors, nurses and ER personnel have not yet heard about VCD, even though VCD is common. Although there are many journal articles in the medical literature about VCD, few medical text books even mention VCD, even though VCD has probably existed since time immemorial --like from volcanoes, dust storms, forest fires, "silent" gastric reflux (without heartburn), other medical conditions, etc.

VCD was seen to exist, back in the 1800's (mistakenly called hysteria), was written about in medical literature in the 1970's, and later, VCD was studied extensively by Nat'l Jewish Medical & Research Center in Denver, CO in the 1980's to the present/2014. Much confusion existed and still does, from the many different names given to VCD, and from the multi-factorial (many possible causes) nature of VCD. 

Misdiagnosis of VCD as asthma--when the person doesn't have asthma at all--or, has only mild to moderate asthma-- has resulted in many VCD patients unnecessarily taking steroids &/or bronchodilators for years, and even decades, before finally getting correctly diagnosed with VCD.

Also, VCD attacks can happen alone, or along with, some life-threatening conditions. Some of these life-threatening conditions may have symptoms that "mimic" (seem similar to) VCD. Some examples are: severe asthma, severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), collapsed lung(s), pulmonary embolism, actual choking, something obstructing or narrowing parts of the airway, spasms of the diaphragm muscle, etc. 

And, (after the patient is saved by Emergency Room doctors), some of these life-threatening conditions, may even cause VCD attacks. One example of this, is pediatric gastric reflux. 

VCD attacks, themselves, can sometimes be life threatening (see webpage 2). And, please see NOTE!!! below:


NOTE!!!: To learn HOW TO STOP VCD ATTACKS, please click on webPAGE 4. See "VCD attack SURVIVAL GUIDE" on webPAGE 4. To learn HOW TO PREVENT FUTURE VCD ATTACKS, please click on webPAGE 5 (and web-page 3).

You are now on the HOME PAGE web-page of this website. You can easily get to any of the other 11 web-pages, by "clicking" the mouse pointer/arrow on top of any web-page description you see in the OUTLINE. Or, you can click on top of a web-page number (& the 'links' web-page) at the very end/bottom of this home-page.(On most web-pages, you can also click on the silver "back" and "next" buttons.) To see what web-page you are on, look at upper right corner, or bottom, of the web-page. When printed out, each webpage is several pages long. This website has a total of 12 web pages.

I made this website in the spring of 2001, and I continue to update it (2014).


OUTLINE of webpages:


1. What exactly is Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD)? How is VCD different from laryngospasm? Or is it?

2. List of some SIGNS (physical, objective--seen, etc. by others) and SYMPTOMS (subjective--experienced by patient) that occur during VCD attacks (and between attacks):

3. How to recognize and accurately diagnose VCD/laryngospasms:

4. How can VCD patients and medical people quickly control and treat VCD (stop each attack), during and between attacks? (includes "VCD attack SURVIVAL GUIDE"). Also listed are some life-threatening VCD "mimics" (that have symptoms similar to VCD).

5. What are some causes of VCD, triggers of VCD, aggravators of VCD (that make VCD worse), and associated conditions that may pre-dispose people to develop VCD? (All are mixed together on this webpage 5, since it's sometimes hard to tell them apart).

6. Can VCD/laryngospasms be prevented or cured?

7. What medical centers, etc., know a lot about VCD? This includes National Jewish Medical & Research Center, in Denver, Colorado.

8. What VCD Conferences are available in 2014, for medical professionals and allied health professionals? I update this webpage 8, as I learn about upcoming medical conferences.

9. References: medical journal articles, books, internet web links, personal communication with physicians & speech pathologists & VCD patients, and others. Also please click on the "links webpage" below, for more references.

10. VCD support for patients, family, friends, medical people & others. ALSO, tips (ideas & suggestions) that may help cure VCD (ask doctor first):
APPENDIX A: Some SINUS TIPS;
APPENDIX B: Some GASTRIC REFLUX TIPS for adults & children;
APPENDIX C: Some PEDIATRIC REFLUX TIPS for infants with colic, reflux, etc.
APPENDIX D: Some ERGONOMICS TIPS (body position when using computer, driving, etc.)

APPENDIX E: (added in 2007): Some GLUTEN-FREE (g-f) EATING TIPS (plus how to temporarily avoid milk proteins, corn proteins, soy proteins, etc.)
APPENDIX F: (added in 2007): Some TOTAL DIARY TIPS (keep daily journal for at least a week. Includes doing "scavenger hunt" using webpage 5, to help add to "total diary")


LINKS webpage:  References: internet web links. (Also see webpage 9.)

DISCLAIMER: The information in this website is not intended to diagnose you. Call (911 or 0, etc.) for an ambulance, or go to an Emergency Room, IMMEDIATELY, for any breathing problems! Then, please see web-page 4, for "VCD Attack SURVIVAL GUIDE".

The information in this website comes from the experiences of many patients (some diagnosed with VCD/laryngospasms, and some not yet diagnosed), from doctors, nurses, speech pathologists, respiratory therapists, medical journal articles, books, VCD patients, VCD Conferences, etc.  As I learn more information, I add it to this website. 

After being seen in an Emergency Room, you may need to go to one or several types of doctors, speech pathologists, and others, to help you get FULLY and ACCURATELY diagnosed: your primary care doctor, a Pulmonologist (Lung specialist doctor), an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat specialist doctor, especially a LARYNGOLOGIST-- who specializes in Voice, vocal cord, throat problems, etc.), a Gastroenterologist (Digestive specialist doctor), an Allergist (Allergy specialist doctor), a doctor who is a specialist in Environmental & Occupational Health, a Neurologist (Nerves & brain specialist doctor), an Endocrinologist for thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, etc., a Respiratory Therapist, a SLP (speech & language pathologist), Gynecologist (for possible female problems), Urologist (for possible male problems), a Cardiologist (heart doctor), &/or other kinds of specialists (doctors, etc.). 

This may include speaking with each doctor, etc., getting examined (including by an ENT doctor and speech pathologist, directly looking at vocal cords, during a "laryngoscopy" exam), having medical tests done &/or prescribed, and learning about treatment choices (options), etc., described by each doctor, etc.


It was not easy for my husband and me to get the VCD correctly diagnosed: 

In 1998, my husband went to several Emergency Rooms, where no doctor had any idea of what he really had. He was misdiagnosed as possibly having asthma, or midlife crisis, or panic attacks. Finally, after about a week of very frequent VCD attacks, a Pulmonologist (lung specialist doctor) suspected VCD, and recommended that my husband go to National Jewish Medical & Research Center, in Denver, Colorado (see webpage 7), where he was quickly diagnosed with VCD, that same day, in 1998. 

A Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP) at Nat'l Jewish taught him how to do the special speech therapy (see webpage 4) that stops most VCD attacks, the same day he was diagnosed, and he was told to work on improving his sinus condition. Then, we began the tedious but necessary work of figuring out all (or most of) my husband’s underlying causes of his VCD. 

Doing this helped me to discover the SINUS TIPS, and the GASTRIC REFLUX TIPS, (see Appendix A & B, on webpage 10), which resulted in my husband quickly conquering his VCD, in 1998.  

In 2000, I first had VCD attacks (during a severe case of bronchitis). After many misdiagnoses at Emergency Rooms, I also went to Nat’l Jewish, and was quickly diagnosed with VCD. VCD is not “catching”, but, it is common. Each person’s list of VCD causes is unique to that person. Using the SINUS TIPS, and the GASTRIC REFLUX TIPS, helped me to also quickly conquer my VCD, in 2000. 

After we both conquered the VCD, I created this free VCD website, in 2001, to help others of all ages, whose VCD hasn’t yet been diagnosed. No one should suffer one minute longer than necessary, with this frightening and sometimes dangerous ailment. We have had no more serious VCD attacks for about 9 years, with only a couple of very mild ones over those years.
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I receive no financial help, and I continue to research and update the website, myself. 

If you would like to speak by phone, or send me an email, I would be happy to try to help you or whoever has the VCD, to conquer it, as quickly and as easily as possible. 

The first time we speak, or when I reply to your email, will be free. Then, for more phone calls &/or emails, if you can, I would appreciate a donation, to help me be able to spend time helping VCD patients, and, for updating the website. 

Although I am not a medical doctor (MD), I am a former RN/registered nurse, with many years of experience dealing holistically with various ailments, including conquering my husband's and my previous VCD attacks (and helping many, many others to conquer their VCD). The advice I can give you, is not medical advice--it is practical advice. The practical advice can help you to make a plan, about what you can try doing (and not doing), and also includes seeing various VCD-knowledgable specialist doctors, to be safe, and to get fully and accurately diagnosed, and correctly treated for your specific situation. 

You can telephone me at 970-726-4440. My email is fsds@rkymtnhi.com (see “email”, below). If that email doesn't work, please use my backup email, that is CarolVCDlady@gmail.com . If I am away from the computer, and cannot answer your email, you can call me. Leave a message, if I can't answer the phone, when you call. Or, call my cell phone, at 970-531-5000.

Remember, for ANY BREATHING PROBLEMS, get emergency medical care, right away, to be safe!



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