Blog | Thursday, April 19, 2012

IM 2012: It might not be asthma.

During a session on diagnostic challenges in allergies (see tomorrow's Internal Medicine 2012 News for more on that), allergist Raymond Slavin, MD, MACP, also talked about the diagnostic challenge of vocal cord dysfunction (VCD).

“We see it more and more often and it is very often confused with bronchial asthma,” he said. How to tell them apart? One clue is that VCD occurs much more often (9x more, in fact) in women, especially those that are stressed and multi-tasking. “I guess that might be the definition of a woman,” joked Dr. Slavin.

And when you ask sufferers what part of their body poses the problem, they are likely to point to the neck, instead of the chest, as an asthma patient would. Other diagnostic clues include: a flattening of inspiratory loop on a flow volume loop, poor response to albuterol and hoarseness.

The diagnosis is tricky, but treatment is easy. “It is absolutely treatable, almost magically if you've got a good speech pathologist in your area,” said Dr. Slavin. In as little as a single session, patients can learn relaxation exercises that resolve the problem.