Laryngitis occurs when overuse, irritation, or infection causes your voice box or vocal cords to become inflamed.
Laryngitis may be acute (short-term), less than three weeks in duration, or it can be chronic (long-term) and last for over three weeks. Per year there are over three million cases in the US.
How do I know I have Laryngitis?
Symptoms which may occur depending on the cause of the Laryngitis include:
- A sore throat,
- Pain when swallowing
- feeling chilled
- runny nose
- Nasal road jam
- Lymph nodes which are enlarged (glands are swollen)
- A feeling of fullness in your throat
The throat may appear reddened in the case of an infection, or whitish deposits may occur in the throat.
What triggers Laryngitis?
There are various causes of both acute and chronic Laryngitis.
Most generally, acute Laryngitis is caused by a viral infection that inflames the vocal cords. It may also be caused by overuse of the voice with too much talking, singing, or shouting.
Laryngitis is chronic if symptoms last more than three weeks, and can be due to:
- Prolonged use of alcohol
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exposure to polluted air
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Overuse of inhalers.
How does a health professional diagnose Laryngitis?
Laryngitis is usually diagnosed following a physical exam.
The most widespread symptom of the condition is hoarseness in the throat, so the doctors will first listen to the laryngitis person’s voice. They can also inquire about lifestyle problems, possible exposure to airborne irritants, and other associated diseases.
Anyone who has symptoms for longer than two weeks should consult their doctor. They may be referred to a specialist in otolaryngology, also known as an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor.
Some treatment options for Laryngitis include:
1. Resting of the vocal cords
If you sing or talk for a living, your voice should rest until the inflammation goes away. It would help if you then restricted your speaking after you recover to prevent the condition from flaring up.
The doctor may suggest you use a household humidifier to add moisture to your environment and to help soothe your irritated and scratchy throat. Stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids.
Limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine because these substances can lead to increased inflammation of the throat. You can also suck your throat on lozenges to keep it moist. Avoid medicines that contain drops of menthol as they can irritate your throat.
Most infectious laryngitis cases are due to viruses, typically acute Laryngitis, which go away with time. If in some rare cases, your Laryngitis is because of bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe you antibiotics.
Chronic treatment of Laryngitis is meant to treat the underlying cause, and will therefore differ. Your doctor may recommend pain relievers, antihistamine, or a glucocorticosteroid.
4. An operation
It is thought to be very severe if your chronic Laryngitis has resulted in loose or paralyzed vocal cords or vocal cord polyps. In these cases, the doctor may suggest surgery if they have caused a substantial dysfunction of your vocal cords.
The removal of vocal cord polyps is usually a simple outpatient procedure. They may suggest injections of collagen, or surgery for paralyzed or loose vocal cords.
How to Avoid Laryngitis
To prevent your vocal cords from getting dry or irritated, heed the following advice:
- Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke dries the throat, and the vocal cords get irritated.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol—this causes you to lose the amount of water in your body.
- Drink plenty of water. The fluids help keep the mucus thin and comfortable to clear quickly in your throat.
- Stay away from spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to pass into the throat or esophagus, leading to heartburn or GERD.
- Eat healthily. Include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C and help maintain the healthy mucous membranes lining the throat.
- Try not to clear your throat too much. This does more harm than good, as it causes the vocal cords to vibrate abnormally and may increase swelling. Clearing your throat also causes your throat to secrete more mucus, making you want to remove your throat again and feel irritated.
- Avoid infections in the upper respiratory tract. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid contact with people with common respiratory diseases like colds.
Our team of otolaryngologists offers comprehensive ENT services and we’re here to help. If you’ve been struggling with laryngitis, contact us today.