Benign Vocal Fold Lesions

Contact Information

Voice and Swallow Clinic, UW Hospital
(608) 263-6190


Pediatric Voice and Swallow Clinic, American Family Children's Hospital
(608) 265-7760


Voice Clinic, 1 S. Park

(608) 287-2500

UW Health staff focuses on the careful treatment of benign or non-cancerous vocal fold masses. Vocal fold polyps, nodules, and cysts are some of the most common types of benign lesions. Although they are not considered life-threatening, they can cause significant hoarseness and interfere with daily communication.
Symptoms of Benign Vocal Fold Lesions
  • Persistent or frequent hoarseness
  • Scratchy or rough vocal quality
  • Voice onset delays (cracks, breaks, or airiness when initiating voice)
  • Decreased pitch range (typically loss of higher pitches)
  • Voice fatigue (voice tires quickly with use)

Some Causes of Vocal Fold Lesions


Vocal folds, also called vocal cords, are made up of small folds of muscle and other tissues that sit atop the windpipe, or trachea. Voice is produced by bringing the vocal folds together and generating enough air pressure from the lungs to set the vocal folds into vibration. This vibration travels through a person’s face and neck making up the sound of his or her voice. If the shape of the vocal folds is altered by lesions, the vibration pattern changes and can result in hoarseness.


Heavy vocal demands including excessive talking, yelling, screaming or crying can cause repetitive, irritating forces where the vocal folds contact one another. These behaviors seem to contribute to the development of vocal fold lesions along with other sources of irritation such smoking, acid reflux and poor hydration.




In the Voice Clinic, we complete a thorough assessment that takes the quality and function of a voice into account along with the appearance of the vocal folds to help diagnose vocal fold lesions. We collect acoustic and aerodynamic measures of a person's vocal output as well as digital video images of the vocal folds in motion using strobe light and special high-speed cameras to more fully understand each person's vocal function. Occasionally it is necessary for the vocal folds to be examined in the operating room under microscopic control.




We consider the whole patient and his or her vocal needs when determining treatment. In addition, specific consideration is given to professional and performing voice users. Examples of treatments include:

  • Voice therapy
  • Improved vocal hygiene
  • Lesion removal or microlaryngoscopy