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Laryngitis

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Symptoms

The main symptom of laryngitis is a hoarse, weak, raspy, or breathy voice. In some cases, you may not be able to talk at all. You may have a sore throat before you begin to have voice problems. And you may continue to have some throat discomfort as the quality of your voice declines.

You may first notice voice-related symptoms when you wake up in the morning. It may take more effort for you to speak, and your voice may not sound normal. You also may cough or feel an urge to clear your throat, especially if your condition is caused by a virus or other infection.

Symptoms are usually temporary unless there is another problem. If your symptoms also include severe pain, problems swallowing, coughing up blood, or a noticeable lump in your neck, you should see a doctor right away. A child who has severe pain, drooling, and problems breathing may have epiglottitis, a serious condition that requires emergency care. Adults also get epiglottitis, but it is more common in children.

See a picture of laryngitis .

Common causes of laryngitis

Laryngitis is most often caused by:

  • An upper respiratory infection (URI) caused by a virus, such as the common cold. Most cases of laryngitis occur with or follow a URI and may be linked to with postnasal drip and coughing. Symptoms may also include a stuffy or runny nose and a slight fever.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acids from the stomach can irritate and inflame the larynx, a condition known as reflux laryngitis. Symptoms of reflux (such as heartburn) aren't always noticed. Laryngitis may be the first sign of reflux in some people.
  • Environmental exposures. Coughing and postnasal drip may also contribute to laryngitis after a person has been exposed to allergens or irritants. Cigarette smoke, including secondhand smoke, is a common irritant.
  • Strain or overuse. A voice that is hoarse, raspy, or weak may result from excessive use, such as after cheering at a sports event. For more information, see Voice Problems.

Sometimes people with asthma can get hoarse from using an inhaler with steroid medicine. In rare cases, this may also cause a yeast infection in the throat.

Indications of chronic symptoms

Most cases of laryngitis improve after a few days and go away without treatment. But if symptoms become chronic, the larynx may be damaged. For example, if you have chronic reflux laryngitis, you may get inflammation that could lead to sores or nodules on your vocal cords. You will also have an increased risk for developing cancer in your throat.

Symptoms that do not improve after 2 weeks may point to a chronic problem or another condition that can damage the larynx. See your doctor to try to find out the cause of long-term symptoms.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 28, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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