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Disease: Laryngitis Laryngitis
Category: Ear, nose, larynx diseases

Disease Definition:

Due to overuse, irritation or infection, laryngitis may occur, which is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx). The vocal cords, which are two folds of mucous membrane covering muscle and cartilage, are located inside the larynx.


The vocal cords open and close smoothly in normal cases, forming sounds through their movement and vibration. These vocal cords become inflamed and irritated in laryngitis. The swelling will cause distortion of the sounds produced by air passing over them. The voice sounds hoarse as a result of this condition. Sometimes, the voice could become so faint due to laryngitis, that it becomes undetectable.


Temporary viral infections or vocal strains are the most common causes of laryngitis, and are not serious. However, a more serious underlying medical condition could cause persistent hoarseness. Laryngitis could be either acute (short-lived) or chronic (long lasting).

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Some of the signs and symptoms of laryngitis may be:


  • Dry cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty breathing, which occurs in children
  • Voice loss or weak voice
  • Dry throat
  • Sore throat
  • Tickling sensation and rawness of the throat.


Laryngitis is usually caused by something minor, such as a cold, and lasts less than a few weeks. However, in less common cases, a more serious or long lasting disease could cause laryngitis.



Usually, laryngitis is temporary, and once the underlying cause it treated, it gets better. Some of the conditions that could cause laryngitis may include:


  • Viruses such as measles or mumps
  • Viral infections such as those that cause a cold
  • Bacterial infections such as diphtheria, which is quite rare
  • Vocal strain caused by yelling or overusing the voice.



Chronic laryngitis is when the condition lasts more than three weeks. Irritants cause this type of laryngitis over time. Vocal cord strain, injuries or growths on the vocal cord (polyps or nodules) could be caused by this type. The injuries mentioned above could be caused by:


  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Inhaled irritants, such as chemical fumes, smoking or allergens
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Acid reflux, also called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Smoking
  • Habitual overuse of the voice, such as with cheerleaders or singers.


Some of the less common causes of chronic laryngitis may be:


  • Cancer
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Vocal cord paralysis, which could result from injury, stroke or a lung tumor, or other health conditions
  • Infections with certain parasites





The underlying cause of laryngitis will determine the treatment. Within a week or so, acute laryngitis that is caused by a virus usually gets better on its own.


Some of the home treatments that could help with symptoms include:


  • Breathing moist air: A person could inhale steam from a bowl of hot water or a hot shower.
  • Treating the underlying cause of laryngitis, such as alcoholism, heartburn or smoking.
  • Sucking lozenges, gargle salt water or chewing a piece of gum. This could help ease throat irritation, but it won't help the vocal cords.
  • Resting the voice as much as possible
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.


Some of the medications that could be used include:


Almost in all cases of laryngitis the cause is viral, which means that antibiotics won't do any good. However, someone may be recommended an antibiotic in case they have a bacterial infection, which is quite rare.

Acid reflux medications:

A person may be recommended these medications in case GERD is the cause of laryngitis.


Corticosteroids could sometimes help reduce inflammation of the vocal cord. However, this treatment will only be used when there's an urgent need to treat laryngitis, such as when the person needs to use their voice to sing or give a speech or oral presentation, or sometimes, when a toddler has laryngitis associated with croup.


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Consultants Corner

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