About REINKE’S EDEMA
Reinke’s edema of the vocal cords, also called smoker’s polyps of the vocal cords, or polypoid corditis, is chronic swelling and inflammation of the surface and vibratory layer of the vocal Cords. It is almost exclusively a condition that affects smokers. Because the vocal cords in patients with this disorder inappropriately develop more mass (but remain pliable), they continue to vibrate during speaking but at a slower rate (eg a lower frequency than normal). This results in a deepened voice, which is most noticeable in women, who typically have higher speaking pitches than men.
Women with more severe forms of Reinke’s edema may commonly be mistaken for men when talking on the phone.
Additionally, the voice may become raspy and effortful, and in some cases the vocal cord polyps can become large enough to obstruct the airway and create breathing difficulty. Reinke’s edema usually develops over years, and so a patient (and even family and friends) may not notice the gradual progression over time.
Surgical Treatment of REINKE’S EDEMA
While cessation of smoking and anti-reflux treatment may be helpful in reducing progression over time, typically, surgical reduction of the inappropriately massive vocal cords is required to treat Reinke’s edema. This is usually accomplished by microlaryngeal surgery in which the vocal cords are conservatively reduced in size. While it is impossible to restore the vocal cords to a “normal” state with surgery alone, the subsequent vocal improvement can be quite dramatic.
Examples of Reinke’s Edema – Before and After Surgical Treatment
Female smoker before and after surgery (3 months).. As a result, the average pitch of her speaking voice was raised from 131 Hz to 166 Hz. (Normal male range: ~ 90 – 140 Hz; Normal female range: ~180 – 220 Hz).
Another female smoker before and after surgery (3 months).. . As a result, the average pitch of her speaking voice was raised from 99 Hz to 185 Hz. (Normal male range: ~ 90 – 140 Hz; Normal female range: ~180 – 220 Hz).