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Reinke's Edema

Reinke’s Edema

Reinke’s edema is a chronic inflammatory disease of the vocal fold which presents with swelling.  Some people refer to this as polypoid corditis or chronic hypertrophic laryngitis. It is commonly seen in women with a history of smoking, but reflux also plays a role. 


Reinke’s edema of the vocal folds leads to alteration of the vibratory function of the vocal folds. Typical symptoms include:

  • Lower than normal voice ("I sound like man")
  • Harsh, gravelly voice
  • Noisy breathing
  • Breathing problems


These types of vocal changes are irreversible and will not go away on their own. Initial treatment consists of aggressive management of laryngopharyngeal reflux. Smoking cessation is also an important part of the treatment. For patients who would like to improve their voice, removing the polyps can be the right choice. There are several methods to remove the polyps:

  • In-office laser removal: This brief procedure is done under local anesthesia. A small KTP laser fiber is advanced through the nose and is used to carefully shrink the polyps using heat. Patients usually have very little to no discomfort during the procedure. 


  • Surgical resection of the vocal fold polyps under general anesthesia: ​​​For some patients, this is the best option. An excellent understanding of the vocal fold structure is required to perform the surgical procedure successfully and to avoid stripping the vocal folds, which will lead to a non-desirable voice outcome. ​
BEFORE TREATMENT: large polyps in a smoker.

Reinke edema is typically seen in women. Both vocal cords have large polyps which interfere with normal vocal cord vibration. Patients typically have a low-pitched and hoarse-sounding voice. 

Reinke 2

Reinke edema polyps can be removed with a laser in the office. The photo shows normal appearing vocal cords 8 weeks after laser treatment for polyps.


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