Definition: Refers to a sudden spasm of the vocal cords.
Laryngospasms are often a symptom of an underlying condition. Sometimes they can occur as a result of anxiety or stress.
They can also occur as a symptom of asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or vocal cord dysfunction. Sometimes they happen for reasons that can not be determined.
Laryngospasms usually last less than a minute. During that time, he can not speak or breathe. Laryngospasms are not usually an indicator of a serious problem, and are generally not fatal.
You can experience laryngospasm once and never have one again. If you have recurrent laryngospasms, you should find out what is causing them.
Causes of laryngospasm
If you have recurrent laryngospasms, it is probably a symptom of something else.
Laryngospasms are often caused by a gastrointestinal reaction. They can be an indicator of GERD, which is a chronic condition. GERD is characterized by stomach acid or undigested food that goes back up the esophagus.
If this acid or food material touches the larynx, where the vocal cords are, it can cause them to spasm and contract.
Vocal cord dysfunction
Vocal cord dysfunction is when the vocal cords behave abnormally when you inhale or exhale. Vocal cord dysfunction is similar to asthma, and both can trigger laryngospasm.
Asthma is a reaction of the immune system that is triggered by an air pollutant or vigorous breathing. Although vocal cord dysfunction and asthma require different types of treatment, they have many of the same symptoms.
Stress or emotional anxiety
A third common cause of laryngospasm is stress or emotional anxiety. A laryngospasm can be your body that shows a physical reaction to an intense feeling you are experiencing.
If stress or anxiety causes laryngospasm, you may need help from a mental health professional in addition to your regular doctor.
Laryngospasms happens to some people while they are asleep, and they can also occur during surgical procedures involving general anesthesia.
Laryngospasm related to sleep
In 1997, it was found that people can experience laryngospasm in their sleep. This is not related to the laryngospasms that occur during anesthesia.
A laryngospasm related to sleep will cause a person to wake up from a deep sleep. This can be a frightening experience as you wake up feeling disoriented and having difficulty breathing.
Like laryngospasms that occur while awake, laryngospasm related to sleep will only last several seconds.
Having repeated laryngospasm during sleep is more likely to be related to acid reflux or vocal cord dysfunction. It is not a threat to life, but you should talk to your doctor if you experience this.
During laryngospasm, the vocal cords stop in a closed position.
You can not control the contraction that is occurring at the opening of the trachea (trachea). You may feel as if your windpipe narrows slightly (a minor laryngospasm) or as if you can not breathe at all.
Laryngospasm will not usually last long, although you may experience some events in a short time.
If you are able to breathe during laryngospasm, you may hear a hoarse whistle, called stridor, as the air moves through the smaller opening.
Laryngospasms tend to take the person who has them by surprise. This feeling of surprise can make the symptoms worse or at least seem worse than they are. If you have recurrent laryngospasm caused by asthma, stress or GERD, you can learn breathing exercises to stay calm during them.
Staying calm can reduce the duration of the spasm in some cases.
If you experience a feeling of tension in your vocal cords and a blocked airway, try not to panic. Do not gasp or swallow the air. Drink small sips of water to try to wash anything that may have irritated your vocal cords.
If GERD is what triggers your laryngospasms, treatment measures that reduce acid reflux can help prevent them from happening.
If you witness someone who has what appears to be laryngospasm, make sure he does not choke. Encourage them to remain calm, and see if they can nod their heads in response to the questions.
If there is no object blocking the airway, and you know the person is not suffering from an asthma attack, continue to talk with them in soothing tones until the laryngospasm has passed.
If within 60 seconds the condition worsens, or if the person has other symptoms (such as his skin turns pale), do not assume that they are having laryngospasm.
Laryngospasms are difficult to prevent or predict unless you know what is causing them. If your laryngospasms are related to your digestion or acid reflux, the treatment of the digestive problem will help prevent future laryngospasms.
The perspective for a person who has had one or several laryngospasms is good. Although uncomfortable and sometimes frightening, this condition is usually not fatal and does not indicate a medical emergency.