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What Are Throat Polyps?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 9 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Throat Polyps Throat Polyp Throat Polyps

Throat polyps are fleshy growths that occur in the throat that are not cancerous. They usually form on the vocal cords and have several causes.

People who overuse their voice a lot – for example, sports teachers and coaches who shout a lot very regularly, singers or stage actors – can be prone to developing polyps in the throat.

People who smoke heavily can also develop throat polyps more frequently and medical conditions such as having an over active thyroid or digestive problems that cause acid from the stomach to reflux into the oesophagus can also be predisposed to polyps.

Polyps on the vocal cords can also be called by technical names, polypoid degeneration or Reinke’s oedema.

Symptoms of Throat Polyps

It is common to have throat polyps and to be completely unaware of them, particularly if they are fairly small. Some just disappear on their own, or break off and are digested. Others can grow so large they interfere with talking.

Depending on where on the vocal cords the polyps are, they can lead to more hoarse speech, or can change the pitch of the voice, making it much lower. Normally they cannot be felt – the common sensation of ‘having a lump in the throat’ is not related to vocal cord polyps.

How are Throat Polyps Detected?

Generally it is a good idea to get a doctor to check out your throat if you become hoarse or your voice changes and changes seem to be long term. Although throat polyps are benign, hoarseness can be a sign of throat cancer, which needs to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. It is also good for your peace of mind.

As well as taking your medical history, the doctor will also examine your throat and may perform a laryngoscopy, which involves using a throat endoscope to place a thin tube with a light and camera at the end to actually see your vocal cords in great detail.

He or she may cut off a small piece of one of the polyps to do a biopsy to confirm the polyps are not cancerous. The examination will also show exactly where the polyps are, how many there are and how big they have grown. Armed with this information, your doctor is then in a position to discuss possible treatment options with you.

Treating Throat Polyps

If your medical history indicates that the throat polyps may have been caused by smoking, you will be given smoking cessation therapy and counselling. If you overuse your voice, and the polyps have developed as a result of strain on the vocal cords, the usual treatment is to rest the voice completely. This sounds easy but, in practice, it is virtually impossible to stop talking completely. But you must try to cut out all shouting and speaking for long periods if at all possible.

If these initial treatments do not shrink the polyps, or if there are many polyps or some are particularly large, your doctor may advise surgery. This is a fairly simple operation, but it will be done under a general anaesthetic. The vocal polyps are removed one by one, and voice therapy after the operation will be required.

Long Term Effects

For most people, having a slightly altered voice is not really a problem and once the polyps have shrunk or being removed and your behaviour has changed to reduce the risk of developing further polyps, your throat should give you no further trouble with respect to polyps. However, the removal of polyps, as well as the polyps themselves can cause problems for some people. The singer, Julie Andrews, completely lost her singing voice after her vocal cord polyps were removed a few years ago. This caused her great distress as singing was an important part of her working and personal life.

Further Reading

For more information about common throat problems have a read through our article about Ulcers In The Throat and also check out Your Thyroid and Throat.

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[Add a Comment]
MY VOICE WENT HUSKY AND I FELT AS IF SOMETHING IN MY THROAT. CONFIRMED POLYP AND HAD AN OP TO REMOVE. WAS TOLD NOT TO SPEAK FOE 24 HRS AFTER BUT THEN WHEN I STARTED TALKING VOICE BACK TO NORMAL. HOWEVER 4 YEARS LATER SYMPTOMS HAVE RETURNED AND IM WAITING FOR ANOTHER REFERRAL BUT GUESS WILL HAVE TO HAVE FURTHER OP TO REMOVE BUT IF ANYTHING LIKE FIRST IT WENT SMOOTHLY AND VOUVE AND THROAT WENT BACK TO NORMAL ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. LETS HOPE SAME THIS TIME
STEF - 9-Feb-17 @ 2:50 PM
Chez - Your Question:
Hi I was told 3 months ago I've gotried throat polyes one on each side. Recently I've had an tickley cough it's really getting me down as it's none stop It's more of a night. I've not had a biopsy they just said come back in six monthsWould it be these that are causing my tickley cough, I've been on antibiotics after having a viral infection and I've still got this cough.

Our Response:
I'm afraid it is beyond our remit to issue a diagnosis of your condition, only a GP can do this through further examination.
ThroatProblems - 31-Oct-16 @ 9:56 AM
Hi I was told 3 months ago I've gotried throat polyes one on each side. Recently I've had an tickley cough it's really getting me down as it's none stop It's more of a night. I've not had a biopsy they just said come back in six months Would it be these that are causing my tickleycough, I've been on antibioticsafter having a viral infection and I've still got this cough.
Chez - 30-Oct-16 @ 12:04 AM
All I can say after reading all the coments, I WISH US ALL Good LUCK,I've seen one Doc. for 17 yrs, he was great, now i've seen three in the past year, and they all come up with a diff. answer for the same problem, by the way the doc. of 17 yrs retired.ALL GOOD ONES ARE RETIRED.The saying i've been told NEVER go to the emergency room on a weekend.Because they are just medical students filling in for the doctors, i'm sure there must be one senior doc. there to step in.
jake - 7-May-15 @ 6:02 PM
i just found out that 10 yrs ago i had a polyp in my throat, i was shocked.Went to see a specelist yesterday, third one in a year.keep getting different ans. I've been useing Fluticasone, then nasacort allergy 24hr. nothing is working. I keepcaughing up mucis, my taste buds are out of wack, nothing tastes good, and i have no appetite, the Doc. sprayed my throat with some white milkey stuff yesterday, today my throat is awful dry and hurts. called his office this A.M., will return my call.Why out of four Doc. use diff. things.first doc. i had was great for 15yrs. (retired) all the rest are NO good.
Jake - 7-May-15 @ 5:43 PM
@Deb7 - if it is persistent and irritating then you should go back to your GP. It may be something else causing it such as if you are a smoker, or sometimes dairy produce can be known to cause catarrh. Or it might be that you may have a throat infection and it is yourimmune system defence kicking into action. If it persists longer than a few weeks make another appointment.
Josie - 9-Apr-15 @ 10:46 AM
I feel as though something like catarrh is stuck in my throat. Can't cough it up or down. Is worse in the mornings and sometimes lasts all day. Pharmacist said to suck throat pastilles and use an inhaler but nothing is shifting it. Had before and went away but this time have had it since a cold in January. Similar to Robs post of earlier today.
Deb7 - 6-Apr-15 @ 7:45 PM
@BANJO - I'm afraid we cannot issue medical advice, but if this is bothering you you should really make and appointment to visit your GP.
ThroatProblems - 31-Mar-15 @ 11:27 AM
two years ago I have had the 'gagging' sensation and tried to vomit but managed to keep food down. This would happen a few times a day, and lasted about a year or so, recently I can feel 'something' stuck in my throat like a piece of mucus just will not go away.I have developed a background noise in my ears and sometimes my head doesn't know if its coming or going!Might be an age thing?I am nearly 53, never smoked, consume alcohol now and again am quietly spoken, very rarely raise my voice, even at the kids but I have been told by other members of the household I snore very loudly!!! Gary
BANJO - 28-Mar-15 @ 6:34 PM
I have one on the right side of my throat I've tried forcing it out, with little to no luck. The last Polyp that popped out was the largest I've ever seen come out of my mouth. It's pressing, and there is a little discomfort almost like I'm going to choke. It feels like something is caught in my throat, and I can't cough it up. I has come down, and I can see the tip of it, it's rubbing against the right side of my tongue. Going back to ER to pick up my X ray of it, you can see it on the film.
Queen - 5-Mar-15 @ 7:34 PM
I have just yesterday returned from hospital after a biopsy on a polyp discovered on my left larynx. Have 3 weeks to wait for test results but surgeon appears happy it isn't malign. After smoking for over 50 years the symptoms appeared 5 weeks into what has been a successful smoking cessation programme . 5 months soon. If for what ever reason you have rough voice symptoms that last longer than the period of a standard cold I would recommend seeking medical help as in the worst case it could be throat cancer. Naturally I am hoping the more benign answer is the case.
Jofred - 3-Oct-13 @ 1:32 AM
I have just today returned from an overnight stay in hospital following a biopsy for polyps. I have had the hoarse voice sounding like a bad cold for about 8 weeks and first noticed after giving up smoking, five weeks previously. First appointment for an inspection with an endoscope. Polyps spotted on left larynx. Biopsy carried out Tuesday 1/10/13 and surgeon said he didn't think there was anything too serious but will have results in three weeks. Sore throat after biopsy but hoarseness already gone. Will try to keep everyone posted. But advise if you have these symptoms get it checked out asap.
Jofred - 3-Oct-13 @ 1:23 AM
Had 2 large polyps removed near my vocal cords almost 3 weeks ago now. My doctor doesn't understand why I cannot speak. I wasn't told anything, except he said I will have my natural voice right after surgery. Who is he kidding?? My husband called my doctor yesterday and all he had to say was hum, she should be talking by now... He said have her rest her voice for 5 days then try talking again. I usually am a believer, but not this time. Should I be worried? Should I see another doctor, or just wait my 4 weeks until I see him again? Sometimes I feel I will stop breathing, because my throat feels so tight. I cannot even get a good cough out without a squeek.
Mitz - 17-Aug-13 @ 5:07 PM
i just went to have a nose examination and found out i have polyps on my throat i'm hoping allswell!!!!
guggles - 29-Nov-12 @ 2:33 AM
I saw the post from Helene and am wondering how the doctor could tellthat the polyp was benign without a biopsy? I have a polyp and am having abiopsy to tell if it is benign or not.
Jimack - 24-Jul-12 @ 2:21 PM
Hi my name is Virginia,my voice started getting deeper and hoarce for the last 18 years,thought I might havepolyps,I am a smoker since I was 14 years old I am now 61 could you please advise me on what I shoud do. Thank You Virginia Skelton
Jeannie - 28-Jun-12 @ 5:02 PM
Hello I am having a op to get a Polyp removed I need to no will my voice come back.over the last 6m ive sounded like I've had a sore throat but I havent could any1 tell me if it will go back 2 the way it was
Kris - 16-May-12 @ 12:58 PM
ive been sufferin with throat infection for couple years.very painfull find it hard to talk,my voice became deeper when i had swine flu two years ago.went to ent unit.sent me to speech therpy. which didnt do anythink.ive had alot of time off work because of it.It gets me down hope you can give me some more information about it.ive had alot of sprays an antibotics which dont work
ju - 6-May-12 @ 7:15 PM
Hi guys just had surgery on my vocal cords for polyps have had a none productive cough for 3 yrs none stop and it was only going to the ENT clinic that they found the polyps no voice for 8 wks and now I am getting speach therapy.just wanted you to know push your doctor to refer you to a EAR NOSE AND THROAT clinic.and talk to some one about your concerns.my polpys have been removed so results in 2 wks time,hoping this will also help with reflux I have been having.ROB go and see your doctor ANGEL always be positive and dont stress yourself talk to your doctor or nurse at clinic to alay your fears.Helena ask for a second opinion and what treatment they can offer you if they are not going to remove it.24hr in hospital then back home voice rest.ice crream.good luck guys and hope all goes well
luci - 4-Mar-12 @ 9:52 PM
I Started having sore throat and I got horse and my throat kept getting worse, I took a antibitic and it still didn,t go away, well it,s been 6 months and I can,t hardly talk and also have bad ear pain with mine. the docter said there was no reason for my ear to hurt but it does, so im fixin to go throw endoscopy and the doc said he saw a tumer, Im really scared it might be cancer, does anyone else have the same problem please help me so I will know what to exspect , my throat is getting worse,
Angelrider - 9-Feb-12 @ 9:25 PM
Frequently I feel as if I have some thing lodged at the base of my throat. It feels like bread or a bone a ball of rice for example. Not sore just uncomfortable. I feel the need to swallow in the hope that will dislodge it. Any clues?
Rob - 11-Nov-11 @ 10:27 AM
Recently I was found to have a polyp in my throat during an surgical procedure.I was then referred to an ENT surgeon. He in turn used a nasel examination, and said it was not malignant and therefore could stay there. My husband and I are worried in case this is a risky thing to do.I also have reflux and problems with some shedding fom the oesophagus, for which I was perscibed Somac.
Helene - 13-Jul-11 @ 4:57 AM
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