Laryngitis is one of the most common conditions affecting the “voice box,” or larynx. Individuals with laryngitis may suffer from acute or chronic inflammation of the vocal cords and hoarseness.
Laryngitis can develop as a result of a viral or bacterial upper respiratory infection. The condition is easily treatable and usually does not require surgical intervention, although persistent laryngitis may be a sign of an underlying issue requiring additional attention and treatment considerations.
Acute and Chronic Laryngitis
Laryngitis can be acute and develop suddenly, often as a result of an infection. If symptoms of laryngitis persist for more than three weeks, then it’s considered chronic.
Chronic laryngitis may be related to an autoimmune condition or it can be caused by environmental factors such as air pollution or exposure to second-hand smoke. Laryngitis may also develop as a result of vocal misuse and strain.
Symptoms of Laryngitis
Laryngitis is often preceded by a sore throat. Hoarseness, another common symptom of laryngitis, occurs when the vocal cords become swollen and fail to vibrate properly to produce sound. Additional symptoms may include:
- An urge to constantly clear the throat
- A “tickle” in the throat
- Cough (possibly due to a related bronchial infection)
How Laryngitis is Diagnosed
During a doctor’s visit, the physician will review the patient’s symptoms and history of throat problems. Patients may need to undergo a procedure called a laryngoscopy, which is done to view the back of the throat and larynx with a special instrument called a laryngoscope. Another step in the evaluation process may also include a stroboscopy, which involves examining the vibrations of vocal cords with a bright flashing light. The physician will take snapshots of the vocal cords to identify abnormalities.
Treatment Options For Laryngitis
The primary treatment for laryngitis is vocal rest to allow inflamed tissues to heal. While recovering, patients should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid foods that are excessively spicy or irritating to the throat.
The right treatment for laryngitis will require identifying the exact cause of symptoms. Laryngitis that is caused by bacterial infections, for instance, may be treated with antibiotics.
Some patients may need to remain under observation for a short period of time to see if their symptoms worsen, as may be the case with a contagious infection. Children are more likely to experience throat swelling caused by a serious throat infection, which in turn may cause laryngitis. In these instances, patients may need IV antibiotics and a breathing tube. However, the majority of laryngitis cases are mild. Follow-up care may include medication to prevent recurrence and vocal rest to reduce inflammation.
It’s important to schedule a doctor’s appointment if patients experience symptoms of laryngitis, especially if symptoms worsen or last for several weeks. Since most cases of laryngitis are caused by a virus, individuals should wash their hands to avoid spreading the virus and reduce their risk of developing the condition. Proper lifestyle habits are also important, such as taking good care of the throat by avoiding smoking and excessive vocal strain.