Difficulty Breathing In and Throat Feels Like it's Closing: What to Do

Question:  I am a 56 yr old female in healthy condition. I stopped smoking 25 yrs ago. I have noticed that my throat feels like it is closing and I have difficulty breathing in. It seems like I am smelling a smoking type smell. I have had this happen in the car, lying in bed and even at my workplace. No one is either around or smoking when this occurs. I have asked people at work if they smell anything and they say no. I do have a sensitivy when someone is smoking my throat closes up and feels like I can’t breath.

Any recommendations or suggestions?


When we breath our vocal cords open, to allow air to pass through.  They close when we speak.   Difficulty breathing in implies that the vocal cords are closing when you inhale, instead of opening.  With asthsma, one tends to have trouble breathing out.  The vocal cords can close inappropriately from reflux- when acid gets up from the stomach to the level of the voice box-  as well as from nerve injuries that cause the vocal cords to not work correctly.  (paradoxical vocal cord motion).  Mucous dripping on the vocal cords can cause them to close as well.  Finally, a growth on the vocal cords may present like this.

This type of problem really requires a thorough ear nose and throat examination and visualization of the vocal cords (laryngoscopy) to determine the cause and treatment.

I hope this helps clear things up..

Robert Pincus MD

Co-Director NY Sinus Center

NY Otolaryngology Group