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Vocal Cord Dysfunction Often Mistaken for Asthma

Only 12 of 41 vocal cord dysfunction patients treated for asthma actually diagnosed with asthma

MONDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients with vocal cord dysfunction are mistakenly treated for asthma, researchers report in the June issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Devang R. Doshi, M.D., and Miles M. Weinberger, M.D., of the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City, reviewed medical records and interviewed 49 vocal cord dysfunction patients aged 8 to 25.

The researchers found that only 12 out of 41 patients treated for asthma had an asthma diagnosis. Twenty-nine patients had exercise-induced vocal cord dysfunction symptoms; 20 had spontaneously occurring vocal cord dysfunction, including four who also had exercise-induced vocal cord dysfunction.

All but two of the 28 patients who were contacted by phone -- some of whom were treated with speech therapy or an anticholinergic inhaler -- experienced an absence of symptoms for periods ranging from a week to five years.

"Vocal cord dysfunction continues to be frequently misdiagnosed as asthma," the authors write. "Two phenotypes of vocal cord dysfunction are apparent: exercise-induced vocal cord dysfunction and spontaneously occurring vocal cord dysfunction. Speech therapy provides relief of symptoms for spontaneously occurring vocal cord dysfunction."

In an accompanying editorial, Michael O'Connell, M.D., of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Aurora, writes that the study marks "a new era in the understanding of vocal cord dysfunction."

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