What Is Laryngitis?

Laryngitis symptoms include your voice suddenly becoming breathy, raspy, gravelly, strained, or higher or lower in pitch. It’s also known as hoarseness or losing your voice. Such changes usually occur because of swelling and irritation of the larynx (voice box) — known as laryngitis. It can be acute or chronic, but if it lasts longer than two weeks, it could be a sign of something serious and should be evaluated by a physician.

What Causes Laryngitis?

There are many laryngitis causes, from the common cold to neurological disorders. Here are some of the more prevalent reasons for losing your voice.

Acute laryngitis

This is the most common cause of laryngitis— the vocal cords swell from a common cold, viral upper respiratory tract infection, or vocal strain. You can injure your vocal folds if you talk or sing too much during an episode of acute laryngitis.

Overall health-related causes

Laryngitis can also result from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), allergies, thyroid issues, or smoking. Serious problems, such as laryngeal cancer, can also lead to hoarseness, so having chronic laryngitis checked promptly is crucial.

Misusing your voice

Even mundane activities can lead to a lost voice, such as trying to be heard in noisy environments, using your voice too much, trying to talk on a phone that’s cradled against your shoulder, speaking in a pitch that’s too high or too low, and public speaking without amplification. In fact, using your voice too much or too loudly can lead to nodules, polyps, or cysts developing on your vocal cords. They’re benign but can still affect your voice.

Vocal hemorrhage

This occurs when a blood vessel on a vocal cord ruptures, causing the soft tissues to fill with blood. It’s characterized by sudden voice loss after straining your voice, and it’s an emergency — if it happens, immediately stop using your voice and see an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

Neurological disorders

Laryngitis symptoms can show up as a result of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. Hoarseness could also be a symptom of a rare disorder called spasmodic dysphonia. If you’ve had a lost voice longer than three months and have ruled out other causes, consider consulting a neurologist.

How Is Laryngitis Treated?

Home remedies

Often, especially if caused by a cold or allergies, laryngitis resolves itself through home remedies. Common among these lost voice remedies are resting your voice, staying hydrated, and using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Lifestyle changes are often helpful as well, such as avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, and cigarettes.

Laryngoscopy

Sometimes, however, a visit to a physician is necessary. If laryngitis lasts longer than three weeks or affects your ability to swallow or breathe, schedule an appointment with an ENT doctor. You’ll most likely receive a laryngoscopy, which is performed one of two ways. One uses a light and a series of mirrors, the other second type involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera on the end (an endoscope) in your nose or mouth. Laryngoscopy allows your ENT doctor to inspect your larynx and vocal cords. If treatment is required, it could include drugs, surgery, or voice therapy.

Call ENT Physicians and Surgeons at (603) 669-0831 for more information or to schedule an appointment.