What is laryngitis?
Laryngitis is an inflammation
of the voice box, or larynx, that causes your voice to become raspy or hoarse.
See a picture of the
larynx (say "LAIR-inks").
be short-term or long-lasting (chronic). Most of the time, it comes on quickly
and lasts no more than 2 weeks.
Chronic symptoms are those that
last 2 weeks or longer. Check with your doctor if your symptoms last more than
2 weeks, because your laryngitis may be caused by more severe problems.
What causes laryngitis?
Laryngitis can be caused
Acid reflux is the most common cause of chronic
laryngitis. But chronic laryngitis may be caused by more severe problems such
as nerve damage, sores,
polyps, or hard and thick lumps (nodules) on your
vocal cords. The vocal cords are the vibrating elastic bands inside the larynx that
produce your voice.
Some hoarseness may occur naturally with age
as your vocal cords loosen and grow thinner.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of
laryngitis is hoarseness. Your voice may sound raspy, be deeper than normal, or
break now and then. You may lose your voice completely. Other symptoms may
include a dry or sore throat, coughing, and trouble swallowing.
More severe symptoms may mean there is another problem. A child who has
severe pain, drooling, and a hard time breathing may have
epiglottitis, a serious condition that requires
emergency care. Adults also get epiglottitis, but it is more common in
How is laryngitis diagnosed?
Your doctor can
identify laryngitis by doing a physical exam that will probably include feeling
your neck for sensitive areas or lumps and looking at your nose, mouth, and
throat for inflammation. Your doctor may also ask questions such as: When did
your voice problem begin? Does it seem to be related to an illness? The way
your vocal cords look and the sound of your voice will help your doctor find
out if your laryngitis will go away on its own or if you need treatment.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist (otolaryngologist) if you have voice problems and
hoarseness that do not have an obvious cause and that last longer than 2 weeks.
A specialist may examine your vocal cords with a small mirror or a special
How is it treated?
With most cases of laryngitis,
home treatment is all that you need. Try to rest your voice, add moisture to
the air in your home with a humidifier or vaporizer, and drink plenty of
fluids. Don't smoke, and stay away from other people’s smoke.
Chronic laryngitis may need more treatment. If you keep getting
laryngitis because of a problem with the way you talk or sing, you may need
speech training. This can help you change habits that can cause laryngitis. It
can also help your larynx heal.
You may need surgery if your vocal
cords have been damaged, such as by sores or
Frequently Asked Questions