Anatomy of the Condition
The vocal folds (or cords) are inside the larynx or voice box. These structures open for breathing. They come together during swallowing. They vibrate as air passes between them during speaking or singing. Fine layers with a soft outer cover make up the vocal folds. A stiffer ligament lies below the thyroarytenoid muscle connects deep to the ligament. The thyroarytenoid muscle makes up the bulk of the vocal fold.
Vocal fold paralysis is an inability to move the muscles of the vocal cords. This can impact all three functions of the larynx. Paralysis of one vocal fold (unilateral vocal fold paralysis) can impair voice and sometimes swallowing. Paralysis of both vocal folds (bilateral vocal fold paralysis) can compromise the airway and breathing.