Within the larynx are two folds of mucus membrane covering muscle and cartilage called your vocal cords. Under normal circumstances, the vocal cords open and close smoothly and form sounds by moving and vibrating. When the vocal cords are swollen, sounds become distorted, making your voice sound hoarse. Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx (voice box) caused by overuse, irritation or infection.
Types of Laryngitis
Laryngitis can be acute or chronic. Most cases are acute and the result of a viral infection, vocal strain from yelling/overuse or bacterial infections. Chronic laryngitis sometimes indicates a serious underlying cause and could lead to vocal cord strain, injury or growths. Possible causes include:
- Inhaling irritants like chemical fumes, smoke or allergens
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Chronic sinusitis
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Habitual voice overuse
- Bacterial/fungal infections
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Bowing of vocal cords
Symptoms of laryngitis vary, and can include hoarseness, weak voice, total loss of voice, tickle/raw feeling in throat, dry/sore throat and cough.
Home Remedies for Laryngitis
Most cases of laryngitis can be managed at home. We recommend:
- Using a humidifier, especially at night, to moisten the air. Alternatively, you can take hot showers or inhale steam from a bowl of hot water to moisten your breathing passages.
- Rest your voice as much as possible. Avoid singing, talking loudly and talking for long periods of time. Also, you should not whisper, as this puts even more strain on the voice than normal talking.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
- Moisten the throat by socking on lozenges, gargling saltwater or chewing gum.
- Avoid decongestants, as these can dry out your throat.
Medical Treatment of Laryngitis
If you still have symptoms after two weeks of trying home remedies, schedule an appointment with a doctor. You should seek immediate medical attention if you’re having trouble breathing, coughing up blood, maintaining a fever or experiencing increasing pain.
You doctor may prescribe medications to treat your symptoms. Antibiotics will be prescribed if your doctor determines that a bacterial infection is the underlying cause. Alternatively, they may suggest corticosteroids, which can help reduce vocal cord inflammation.
Some cases of chronic laryngitis may warrant voice therapy to lessen behaviors that harm your vocal folds or surgery to correct structural problems.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with experts, call Pinnacle ENT Associates.