It is the swelling and inflammation of the larynx. It can be acute or chronic, although in most cases the condition is temporary and has no serious consequences.
The larynx, also known as the voice box , is home to the vocal cords. These are vital for the processes of breathing, swallowing and talking. The vocal cords are two small folds of mucous membrane that cover cartilage and muscles that vibrate to produce sound.
Laryngitis is usually not serious and in most cases resolves without treatment in about 7 days.
Fast facts on laryngitis
- Viral infections such as colds are the most common causes of laryngitis.
- Chronic laryngitis is often caused by lifestyle factors, such as continued exposure to irritants.
- Children with laryngitis can develop another respiratory disease called croup .
- A doctor may recommend additional tests in more severe cases, such as a laryngoscopy.
- Acute laryngitis is best treated with self-care and rest measures.
- The vocal cords normally open and close to generate the voice with a slow and steady movement.
- When a person has laryngitis, their vocal cords are swollen. This changes the way the air moves through the throat.
- This change in airflow leads to a distortion of the sounds produced by the vocal cords. People with laryngitis often have a voice that is hoarse, gravelly, or too quiet to hear properly.
- In chronic laryngitis, inflammation is ongoing. The vocal cords can become tight and develop growths, such as polyps or nodules.
Laryngitis can cause a wide range of symptoms in adults, including:
- Difficulty with speech
- Throat pain.
- Low fever
- Persistent cough
These symptoms start suddenly and often become more severe over the next 2 to 3 days. If symptoms last longer than 3 weeks, the case has likely become chronic. This suggests a more serious underlying cause that warrants further investigation.
Laryngitis is often associated with other diseases. The tonsillitis , a sore throat , cold or flu can occur with a case of laryngitis, so the following symptoms may occur:
- Swelling in the glands
- Runny nose.
- Pain when swallowing
- Fatigue and general malaise.
Symptoms are likely to resolve without treatment before the seventh day of infection. Consult a physician if symptoms persist longer or are severe.
Symptoms in children
Symptoms of laryngitis in children may differ from symptoms in adults. The condition is often characterized by a hoarse cough, fever, and can also present as croup .
Croup is a common contagious respiratory disease among children. Although croup is generally a simple disease to treat, severe cases require medical attention.
Medical attention is recommended for children who experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
- A fever over 103 ° Fahrenheit or 39.4 ° Celsius.
- Loud, high-pitched sounds of breathing when inhaling.
These symptoms can also indicate epiglottitis. This is the inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the windpipe.
Both adults and children can develop epiglottitis, and the condition can be life-threatening in certain cases.
Several conditions can cause laryngitis. Acute and chronic forms of laryngitis are usually the result of different factors.
The most common cause of laryngitis is a viral infection, often similar to those caused by the common cold or flu. Overuse of the voice can also cause inflammation of the larynx.
Examples of overuse include loud singing or excessive yelling.
In very rare cases, acute laryngitis can be caused by diphtheria, a bacterial infection.
Chronic laryngitis is usually caused by the following:
- Acid reflux, a condition in which acid from the stomach and contents back up into the throat.
- Bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection.
- Chronic sinusitis.
- Excessive cough
- Exposure to inhaled irritants, such as allergens or toxic fumes.
- High alcohol consumption
- Habitual misuse or excessive use of the voice.
- Smoking, including secondhand smoke.
- Use of inhaled steroid medications, such as asthma inhalers .
Tests and Diagnosis
Doctors usually diagnose laryngitis with a physical exam that evaluates the ears, nose, throat, and voice. In most cases, no additional testing is required.
Laryngitis is usually diagnosed after a physical exam.
The most common symptom of the condition is hoarseness, so doctors will take care to listen to the voice of the person with laryngitis.
They can also ask questions about lifestyle, possible exposure to airborne irritants, and other related illnesses.
If a person has chronic hoarseness, a doctor may recommend additional tests to fully examine the vocal cords.
Chronic hoarseness can be caused by other conditions, such as cancer in the throat area. This symptom will require follow-up exams to rule out a more serious illness.
A laryngoscope can be used to observe the movement of the vocal cords when used and determine the presence of polyps or nodules on the vocal cords. A biopsy may be performed if a suspicious area of tissue requires further evaluation.
Anyone with symptoms lasting more than 2 weeks should see their doctor. In some cases, a doctor may refer the person with laryngitis to an otolaryngologist, also known as an otolaryngologist (otolaryngologist).
Often times, cases of acute laryngitis are best treated with rest, home remedies, and self-care measures that can relieve symptoms.
Staying hydrated is important for laryngitis recovery.
Doctors usually recommend rest to control the symptoms of laryngitis.
For laryngitis, resting means limiting use of the larynx. Avoid talking, singing, or using the voice box. Although whispering may seem like a gentler alternative to speaking at a normal volume, it requires the vocal cords to be well stretched, making it difficult for them to recover. Whispering should also be avoided.
Other simple home remedies include:
- Avoid decongestants, as these dry out the throat.
- Breathe moist air.
- Use of paracetamol, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to control pain.
- Avoid inhaling irritants, such as smoking or secondhand smoke.
- Drink a lot of liquids.
Doctors may prescribe antibiotics in cases where the laryngitis has been caused by a bacterial infection.
However, a recent review found that the risks of prescribing antibiotics for acute laryngitis generally outweigh the benefits.
Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation of the vocal cords in severe or urgent cases.
This can apply to people who use their voices professionally, such as professional singers or people who speak in public. Babies with severe croup can also be treated with corticosteroids.
Chronic laryngitis may require more extensive ongoing treatment. The cause of the inflammation will determine this.
If the laryngitis is caused by another condition, such as acid reflux or sinusitis, treating the associated condition may also treat the symptoms of laryngitis.
Treatment of laryngitis may require lifestyle changes. For example, if singing is considered to be the cause of laryngitis, the patient may need to modify his singing method.
Speech training may be recommended in such cases. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco smoke, and irritants can also help.
A person may need surgery in cases where the vocal cords have been severely damaged as a result of a growth of polyps or nodules.
People can take a number of steps to limit vocal cord dryness and irritation.
The following steps can help reduce the risk of laryngitis:
- Avoid clearing your throat.
- Take steps to prevent upper respiratory infections, such as practicing good hygiene and avoiding contact with people who have contagious infections.
- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke when possible.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake, as they can increase the risk of dehydration.
- Laryngitis can be uncomfortable, but it is easy to manage and often short-lived.