Reinke's Edema

What is Reinke's edema?

Reinke’s edema occurs when the layer under the surface lining of the vocal fold - called Reinke’s space - fills with fluid due to long-standing vocal trauma, most often from smoking. In the most severe cases, the entire membranous portion of the vocal folds becomes filled with thick, gelatinous fluid, and the vocal folds look like enlarged fluid-filled balloons/elephant ears.

What are the symptoms of Reinke's edema?

Reinke’s edema tends to result in a consistent change in voice quality, including mild to moderate dysphonia characterized by low pitch and a husky hoarseness. This is typically what people refer to as “smoker’s voice.”

How is Reinke's edema treated?

Treatment for Reinke’s edema may vary depending on the severity. The first line of management is for the patient to stop smoking and to improve laryngeal hygiene and hydration. This may reduce overall inflammation. If the Reinke’s edema is so severe that it is blocking part of the airway or causing significant quality of life issues for a patient, surgical management may be necessary. Voice therapy is valuable post-operatively in these cases for establishment of improved vocal hygiene and improved voice production.