Polypoid corditis, also known as Reinke’s edema or smoker’s polyps, is a condition in which the vocal cords develop diffuse polyps, causing them to become very ponderous and weighty. It is typically the result of years of smoking in combination with acid reflux. As a result of the increased mass of the vocal cords, they vibrate more slowly during speech, resulting in a lower pitched voice. Women with this disorder often complain of being mistaken for a man over the telephone.
Although polypoid corditis is a benign process in and of itself, because it tends to result from smoking, it can also occur in combination with either vocal cord dysplasia (pre-cancer) or vocal cord cancer. Additionally, in severe cases, the laryngeal airway can be narrowed, leading to difficulty breathing.
Although smoking cessation, which is always advised, and control of acid reflux can help, it may take many months or even years of this treatment for the voice to improve. Alternatively, judicious surgical correction of this condition can result in a dramatic improvement in vocal pitch, as well as a reduction in the effort required to speak.