What is laryngitis?
Laryngitis is an inflammation
of the voice box, or larynx (say "LAIR-inks"), that causes your voice to become raspy or hoarse.
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 longer than
2 weeks. Your laryngitis may be caused by more severe problems.
What causes laryngitis?
Laryngitis can be caused
- Colds or the flu. This is the most common
- Acid reflux, also known as
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Overuse of your
voice, such as cheering at a sports event.
- Irritation, such as
from allergies or smoke.
- Use of inhaled steroid medicines (such as those used to treat asthma).
- Problems with the way you talk or sing.
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, cancer, 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.
How is laryngitis diagnosed?
A doctor can
identify laryngitis by doing a physical exam that will probably include feeling
your neck for sensitive areas or lumps and checking your nose, mouth, and
If you have voice problems and
hoarseness that don't have an obvious cause and that last longer than 2 weeks, your doctor may refer you to a specialist (otolaryngologist). The way
your vocal cords look and the sound of your voice will help the specialist find
out if your laryngitis will go away on its own or if you need treatment.
How is it treated?
With most cases of laryngitis,
home treatment is all that you need.
- Rest your voice as much as you can. When you have to talk, speak softly but
don't whisper. (Whispering irritates your larynx more than speaking softly.) Don't talk on the telephone or speak
loudly unless you have to.
- Try not to clear your throat. If you have a dry cough, a nonprescription cough suppressant
- Add moisture to
the air in your home with a humidifier or vaporizer.
- Drink plenty of
- Don't smoke. And stay away from other people's smoke.
If acid reflux (GERD) is causing your laryngitis, you may need to take steps to reduce the reflux.
Chronic laryngitis may need more treatment. For example, 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