What Is Laryngitis?

Inside your larynx are your vocal cords, which are two folds of mucus membrane that cover muscle and cartilage. When you speak, the vocal cords open and close smoothly, forming sounds with their movements and vibrations. Laryngitis describes inflammation of the larynx that causes problems with your voice.

What Are the Symptoms of Laryngitis? Man feeling his neck because it's hoarse

In most cases, symptoms of laryngitis last less than a couple of weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Weak voice
  • Loss of voice
  • Throat tickle
  • Raw/sore throat
  • Dry cough

What Causes Laryngitis?

Laryngitis may be acute or chronic, which tend to have different underlying causes.

Acute Laryngitis

Symptoms of acute laryngitis typically resolve once you get over the underlying condition. Causes include:

  • Viral infections like the common cold
  • Vocal strain caused by yelling or overusing your voice
  • Bacterial infections (less common)

Chronic Laryngitis

Laryngitis that lasts longer than three weeks is considered chronic. Chronic laryngitis can cause vocal cord strain, injuries and growths on the vocal cords, and can be caused by:

  • Inhaling irritants like chemical fumes, smoke or allergens
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Habitual voice overuse (common in singers)
  • Smoking

More rarely, chronic laryngitis can be caused by:

  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Certain parasites
  • Cancer
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Bowing of vocal cords

How Is Laryngitis Treated?

Your doctor may first recommend home remedies for your laryngitis, including:

  • Using a humidifier at home and work
  • Resting your voice as much as possible
  • Drinking lots of fluids, avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Moistening your throat with lozenges, gargling salt water or chewing gum
  • Avoiding decongestants, which can cause dryness
  • Avoiding whispering, which strains the voice more than normal speech

If home remedies are ineffective, your doctor may try medications, such as:

  • Antibiotics, only when laryngitis is caused by a bacterial infection
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, only when there is an urgent need to treat the condition

For more information about diagnosing or treating laryngitis, call the experts at Topeka ENT today.

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