During the cold weather of winter, many of us try to stay indoors as much as possible. While some folks must work out in the elements, there are some brave souls who voluntarily exercise outside in the cold.
My general rule of thumb is to jog inside if the outdoor temperature is less than 50 degrees because I frequently experience wheezing at lower temperatures due to exercise-induced bronchospasm.
I was reminded of this problem while reading of vocal cord dysfunction, which is when the vocal cords close when they should be opening, particularly during inspiration (inhaling).
This problem should be suspected in people with wheezing or stridor when breathing in. It might also cause sudden, severe difficulty breathing without a low oxygen level, rapid breathing, or increased work of breathing. Also, throat or chest tightness might occur as well as anxiety, particularly in females.
Vocal cord dysfunction should be considered in patients with poor response to optimal medical management of asthma. Other diagnoses to be considered include poorly controlled asthma, anatomic defects, swelling of the larynx (voice box), nerve injury and neurologic disorders
Common triggers of vocal cord dysfunction include exercise, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, postnasal drip, upper or lower respiratory tract infection and irritants.
Vocal cord dysfunction occurs two to three times more often in females than in males. It occurs at any age but is more commonly diagnosed in patients 30 to 40 years of age. It may coexist with asthma (25% to 30%), gastroesophageal reflux disease or anxiety disorders.
Looking into the nose and throat with a scope and pulmonary function testing, with provocative exercise and methacholine, can help diagnose vocal cord dysfunction and are helpful to evaluate for other causes.
Conditions that can trigger vocal cord dysfunction should be optimally treated, particularly asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and postnasal drip, while avoiding potential irritants.
Therapeutic breathing maneuvers and vocal cord relaxation techniques are first-line therapy for vocal cord dysfunction. Coexisting asthma should be treated with usual asthma care. Behavioral counseling should be considered for patients with anxiety and depression. Heliox (a mixture of helium and oxygen) has been described as a potential treatment during acute attacks.
Sometimes, vocal cord dysfunction leads to difficulty speaking (dysphonia), as opposed to difficulty breathing (dyspnea), because of abnormal laryngeal muscle spasms. Speech therapy may improve the voice in patients with dysphonia.
In some cases, Botox injections may be helpful for spasmodic dysphonia and for treating dyspnea in certain cases, although evidence is limited.
If you have concerns that you may have vocal cord dysfunction, consult your health care provider. Referral to an ears, nose and throat specialist and/or a speech therapist should be considered.
Changing the subject, last week I wrote about wearing a device like the Apple watch to detect and monitor atrial fibrillation. Please do not think this is an ad for Apple watches, but the following made me think that I should consider updating mine from a series 2 Apple watch.
In Morrow, Georgia, when an older individual fell outside, his Apple Watch detected the fall and called authorities, potentially saving the man’s life. They were able to trace the Apple Watch’s GPS coordinates to the man’s approximate location.
They found the man near some shrubbery, semi-conscious and in below freezing temperatures. They quickly transported him to the hospital.
Also, in honor of February as Heart Month, Apple rolled out new heart health resources across its services with the aim to keep its U.S. customers healthy and informed.
Custom compilations for heart health will be available, according to a Jan. 31 blog post on the company’s website:
For Apple Watch users, a heart activity challenge will be added Feb. 14. Users must work out for 30 minutes to receive a reward.
The App Store will contain apps dedicated to cardiovascular health aimed to provide users insights about their heart rate, activity levels, fitness and overall wellness.
Apple Books is set to provide users with an array of heart health-focused titles.
Apple TV will focus on shows dedicated to heart science, healthy living and heart disease.
Apple Podcasts will highlight offerings that feature medical experts who will provide users with tips on how they can improve their health.
I am sure Android users can find similar things. But Apple products are more familiar to me.