April 13, 2006
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
Medical School Professor Says “Listen to Your Voice” for Better Health
It’s not just singers, actors, teachers, and umpires who should pay attention to their voices. Changes in the sound of your voice can be an indication of several different medical conditions, including some that are quite serious.
“Most of the voice changes that people experience are, in fact, related to medical problems and these conditions can usually be treated successfully,” said Dr. Gus J. Slotman, a professor of Surgery at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. “As many as seven million Americans already have some type of voice disorder. If the sound of your own voice sounds funny to you, take the time to listen. It’s probably telling you to see your physician.”
Each year on April 16 the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery sponsors World Voice Day (www.entnet.org/news/voiceday.cfm) to remind people to keep an eye on their health by listening for changes in their voices. According to Dr. Slotman and the Academy, a wide variety of conditions can cause voice changes, including:
Medications. Decongestants and antihistamines used for cold and allergy symptoms; steroid inhalers for asthma, antidepressants and some medications to control high blood pressure can dry out the vocal cords causing hoarseness.
Infection. An infection can cause the vocal cords to swell resulting in laryngitis. This is usually a viral infection, so antibiotics will not help. The best prescription is rest your voice and drink plenty of fluids.
Benign bumps. Misuse, overuse or injury can cause lesions on the vocal cords that can make the voice hoarse or raspy. Often, rest and speech therapy will restore the voice. If polyps or cysts are the cause, surgery may be needed.
GERD. Along with heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (when stomach acids flow back into the esophagus) can cause chronic hoarseness from irritation to the esophagus. Often these symptoms can be controlled through diet and other lifestyle changes.
Throat cancer. Voice changes can be an early indication of throat cancer. With early diagnosis and treatment, the cure rate for throat cancer can be more than 90 percent.
To request an interview with Dr. Slotman, please contact Jerry Carey, University News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.