Laryngitis means inflammation of the larynx or the voice box of a person. In the larynx are the vocal cords which normally open and close smoothly while forming sounds through the movement and vibration. When the vocal cords are inflamed the swelling makes the sounds distorted. Thus a person’s voice sounds hoarse, or in some cases almost undetectable. The laryngitis, i.e. the irritation of the vocal cords because of an overuse, irritation or infection, can be acute or chronic. Usually, the most cases are due to a temporary infection and are not dangerous. However, obstinate voice roughness can signal a more dangerous underlying condition.
Generally, symptoms of laryngitis last around couple of weeks. The cause is usually a virus, but the cause can also be more serious and long-lasting in some cases. The symptoms are:
- Sore and dry throat
- Dry cough
- Tickling sensation in the throat
- Weak voice
- Rough voice
- Voice loss
Most of the cases, even acute cases of laryngitis can be managed with self-care. Rset the voice and drink a lot of liquid.
Persistent use of the voice when having laryngitis may result in damage to the vocal cords.
It is advisable to see a doctor if the laryngitis symptoms last more than two weeks.
If, however, some of the following signs also appear, it is recommendable to seek immediate care as the symptoms may refer to another more serious underlying disease:
- Troublesome breathing
- Hard swallowing
- Constant fever
- Coughing blood
- Increased pain
The cases of laryngitis are mostly temporary and improve when the underlying cause is cured.
Causes of acute laryngitis are:
- Viral infection (as those that cause cold)
- Bacterial infection
- Vocal strain (from yelling or overuse)
Chronic laryngitis is laryngitis that will last longer than three weeks. It usually appears due to exposure to irritants. It can cause vocal cord strain and injuries or growths as polyps and nodules.
The injuries can happen because of:
- Irritants that are inhaled, as: smoke, fumes and allergens
- Alcohol abuse
- Voice overuse
- Acid flux
- Chronic sinusitis
Bacterial, fungal and parasite infections are less common causes.
Chronic hoarseness of the voice can be cause by: cancer, vocal cord paralysis (result of injury, stroke, lungs tumor), bowing of the vocal cord (in older people).
The factors that increase the risk of having laryngitis are:
- Respiratory infection (cold, bronchitis, sinusitis)
- Exposure to irritating substances (cigarettes, alcohol, acids and chemicals)
- Voice overuse (a lot of speaking, speaking loudly, shouting or singing)
The complication that exists is a possible spread of an infection through the respiratory system if the laryngitis is caused by an infection.
Self-care helps the symptoms of acute laryngitis to improve faster. The acute type of laryngitis usually cures on its own in a week time.
When it comes to chronic laryngitis, the treatments focus on curing the underlying cause. Sometimes, if the infection is bacterial or the need to treat the condition is urgent, antibiotics or corticosteroids are used respectively.
Some of the self-care measures that a person with laryngitis can practice are:
- Resting the voice
- Avoiding shouting or singing too loudly or too long
- Avoiding whispering
- Drinking a lot of fluid
- Breathing moist air
- Moisten the throat
In order to prevent drying or irritating the vocal cords, a person should:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid inhaling smoke
- Avoid spicy foods
- Eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Drink a lot of water
- Not clear the throat
- Wash the hands often
- Avoid people that have infections like colds