When tissue is softer than normal in the larynx (voice box), it can cover the vocal cords and airway, making it difficult for infants to breathe.
Laryngomalacia occurs when the tissue that makes up the larynx (voice box) is soft and floppy, which causes it to collapse over the vocal cords and block the airway opening. This leads to noisy breathing in infants, also knowns as stridor.
The condition is often worse when babies are laying on their backs or crying and can make breathing difficult as the chest pulls inward. In severe cases, it can also lead to bluish skin, apnea (breathing stops while sleeping) or difficulty feeding. In 90 percent of infants, this condition resolves itself by the time the baby is 18 to 20 months old.
Laryngomalacia occurs sporadically and is not linked to family history. It can appear shortly after birth, but is usually noticeable by the time the baby is two weeks old.
Symptoms of laryngomalacia include:
- Bluish tint to the skin
- Chest drawn in while breathing
- Noisy breathing that often becomes worse when babies are fussy, crying, excited, feeding or lying on their back
- Respiratory distress
Some babies with laryngomalacia will also develop gastroesophageal reflux.