Laryngitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Overview

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box, known as larynx. With laryngitis, your vocal cords become inflamed or irritated. The condition is often associated with hoarseness or loss of voice. Laryngitis can be either acute or chronic. In most cases, laryngitis is short-lived, triggered by a temporary viral infection or vocal strain. However, persistent hoarseness sometimes signals a more serious underlying medical condition. Commonly, laryngitis isn’t a big deal. With proper treatment, it should go away within 3 weeks.

Causes

There are different causes of acute and chronic laryngitis.

Acute laryngitis is the most prevalent type of laryngitis. It will improve after the underlying cause gets better. Common causes of acute laryngitis include:

  • Viral infections of the upper respiratory organs
  • Bacterial infections, such as diphtheria
  • Overuse or abuse of voice

Chronic laryngitis often lasts for more than a few weeks. This type of laryngitis is generally caused by exposure to irritants over time. Common causes of chronic laryngitis include:

  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Exposure to dust, fumes, toxins and other chemicals
  • Certain health conditions, such as cancer

Symptoms

Laryngitis is often related to another illness, such as a cold, flu, or bronchitis. Typical symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Voice loss
  • A constant urge to clear your throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Trouble speaking
  • A low-grade fever
  • Swollen glands

Diagnosis

In most case, the doctor may listen to your voice and to examine your vocal cords to diagnose laryngitis without any testing. However, if the symptoms are severe, several techniques such as blood tests and X-rays. Common diagnostic procedures include:

  • Laryngoscopy. It is the most common way to look directly at the vocal cords and evaluate the function by using a light and a tiny mirror. The procedure can see whether the vocal cords are inflamed, if there are any polyps or nodules, and if the vocal cords move appropriately with breathing and speaking.
  • Biopsy. If the doctor sees a suspicious area, a biopsy is ordered to take a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope.

Treatment

Acute laryngitis often gets better within a week. Self-care measures can help improve symptoms, for example:

Chronic laryngitis treatments are generally aimed at treating the underlying causes. Medications used in some cases include:

Antibiotics. If you have a bacterial infection, the doctor may recommend an antibiotic. However, antibiotic won’t work if laryngitis is caused by virus.

Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids can help reduce vocal cord inflammation. However, this treatment is used only when there is an urgent need to treat laryngitis.


Keywords: Laryngitis

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.