Department of Otolaryngology

Reinke's edema

The non-muscle part of the vocal cord, sometimes called the vocal fold, right under its surface, is called Reinke's space. Swelling in this area is called Reinke's edema.

When the vocal cords are impacted by the swelling, they cannot vibrate in the usual way. That means the voice will sound different.

Reinke's edema risk factors and causes

Women are more likely than men to get the condition. Reinke's edema is caused by smoking.

Reinke's edema causes

Reinke’s edema almost always occurs due to longstanding smoking.  Literature suggests that it may occur secondary to thyroid disease, hormonal change, stomach acid reflux, or voice overuse.  The evidence, however, is inconclusive.  Reinke’s edema does not disappear after smoking cessation, however it may stop growing in size.

Reinke's edema complications

Reinke's edema does not go away on its own, so the irritation will continue. Reinke's edema may make you hard to understand, since it affects the sound of your voice.

Reinke's edema symptoms and diagnosis

A change in the voice to one that is very deep is a key feature of Reinke's edema.

Reinke's edema symptoms

  • A low, raspy voice.
  • Shortness of breath

Reinke's edema diagnosis

Diagnosis of Reinke's edema is made by looking at the irritation in the back of the throat that is causing symptoms.

Reinke's edema treatment

Reinke's edema does not go away on its own.

The cause of the condition needs to be identified and treated to address the edema. If you smoke, stop. Depending on the severity of your acid reflux, you may need help addressing that condition.

Treating Reinke's edema may involve voice therapy or surgery.

Make an Appointment at the UPMC Voice Center

To make an appointment for relief from Reinke's edema, contact the UPMC Voice Center at 412-232-SING (7464).