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Having breathing problems while swallowing. What could be wrong?

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ENT Specialist
Practicing since : 2001
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There are times when I swallow wrong and then I can't get my breath. It got so bad once that NO air got in or out. My hubby was there and didn't have a clue what to do. No food in the way, just a little liquid down the windpipe. I am now terrified that it will get that bad again. The little coughing at the beginning seems to not get out whatever went down, but just let less and less air in and out. I have researched and seen others speak of the same thing. Can't find any answers though. I don't want to worry about this. Do you know what might be happening and what I can do, if anything to prevent this?

Most Sincere Thanks!
Posted Tue, 14 May 2013 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Naveen Kumar 5 hours later

Thanks for posting the query

After going through the history I do feel you could be suffering from 'disorders of the vocal cords'.

The frequent aspiration of the liquids is due to neural related problems of the larynx and the vocal cords. The sensation of the lower pharynx and the superior part of the vocal cords is supplied by a nerve called 'superior laryngeal nerve' (SLN). When there is weakness of the SLN, the sensations become less due to which there is reapeated aspiration of food and salivary secretions. This can be really troublesome, as it can lead to aspiration pneumonia and rarely respiratory arrest.

Secondly, any irregular movement of the vocal cords such as partial paralysis or paradoxical movements can also cause aspiration.

My suggestion to you is to consult a good phono-surgeon or an ENT specialist for a complete evaluation of the vocal cords. A flexible nasopharyngo-laryngoscopy with or without a stroboscopy has to be done to assess the anatomy and the movements of the vocal cords.

Hope I have answered your query; I will be available for the follow up queries.

Dr. Naveen Kumar N.
ENT and Head & Neck Surgeon
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