Symptoms of Stertor

Stertor: Noisy breathing

Stertor is a low pitched sound that is caused by vibration of tissue in the throat owing to obstruction of the airway above the vocal folds. Stertor is described as low in pitch and not musical. It is heard during inspiration. Simple snoring, upper airways resistance syndrome, obstructive sleep apnoea and adenotonsillar enlargement are all associated with stertor.

Stertor should be differentiated from stridor and wheeze.

Stridor is the medical term for noisy breathing that is heard when turbulent airflow passes through a narrowed segment of the upper airway. Stridor is heard during inspiration (breathing in or inhaling), or is heard during both inspiration and expiration (taking a breathing out or exhaling). Stridor is often described as a high pitched musical sound. People with stridor often have shortness or breath (dyspnoea) as well. Stridor is sometimes mistaken for wheeze or stertor, which are also sounds from the respiratory tract. Subglottic stenosis, vocal fold paralysis, laryngeal infections and tumours in the throat are some of the many conditions associated with stridor.

Wheeze is a musical sound that may be low or high pitched, and is produced by reduced airflow in the lower respiratory tract. Wheeze is usually heard during expiration. Asthma and emphysema are associated with wheeze.

How do we evaluate stertor?

People with stertor are initially evaluated by taking a thorough medical history and by performing an examination of the upper airway, including endoscopy. Standard endoscopy of the throat is called laryngoscopy, in which an endoscope (a slim tube with a camera on the end)is passed through the noseusing local anaesthetic to examine the airway. Additional investigations such as CT scanning, and/or or a sleep study, may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

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