Laryngitis is swelling of the voice box, including the vocal cords. Vocal cords normally create sounds by opening and closing. Swelling makes movement of the vocal cords difficult which makes you sound hoarse or prevents sounds at all.
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Laryngitis is caused by irritation, overuse, or infection of the voice box. Some of the most common irritants include:
Less often laryngitis may be caused by certain medical conditions, such as:
Factors that may increase your chance of laryngitis include:
Laryngitis may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most laryngitis can be diagnosed by your symptoms and history. Your doctor may recommend further tests if you have:
You may be referred to a specialist, if your laryngitis does not have an easily identified cause or cure.
Your voice box may be examined with a flexible, lighted scope. Other tests may also be done to evaluate swallowing or other processes related to normal voice.
Laryngitis will often go away on its own once the underlying cause is managed. Underlying causes may require medication, treatment, or simply time.
Swelling and discomfort of the vocal cords can be managed with home care, such as:
Other steps will depend on the cause of laryngitis, for example:
Voice therapy may be needed to treat some voice problems such as regular vocal overuse or chronic laryngitis. Voice therapy consists of:
You may not be able to prevent some of the illnesses and disorders that can cause laryngitis. To prevent and treat mild hoarseness related to laryngitis:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
Acute laryngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: hhttp://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 24, 2011. Accessed January 3, 2013.
Common problems that can affect your voice. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/common-problems-can-affect-your-voice. Accessed January 3, 2013.
Last reviewed August 2015 by David Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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