Know the Basics
If your throat is dry and your voice is hoarse, there is a chance that you have laryngitis. Here are some quick facts to help you learn more about laryngitis treatment, its causes and how to prevent it.
What Is Laryngitis?
Your larynx houses your vocal chords. Normally, your vocal cords close and open smoothly to make sounds through their vibration and movement. However, those vocal cords become irritated or inflamed when you have laryngitis. The swelling can make a person’s voice sound horse and in some cases undetectable.
What Are the Types of Laryngitis?
There are two types of laryngitis: acute and chronic laryngitis. Acute laryngitis normally lasts for less than three weeks, whereas chronic laryngitis lasts longer than three weeks.
What Causes Laryngitis?
The cause of your laryngitis can sometimes determine what kind of laryngitis you have, and this will determine your laryngitis treatment. Here is a quick rundown of what causes each kind of laryngitis.
Acute Laryngitis Causes
Most acute laryngitis cases are temporary. The condition often goes away once your receive laryngitis treatment for the underlying cause. Here are some common causes of acute laryngitis:
- Viral infections like those that cause colds
- Bacterial infections (rare)
- Vocal strain from overuse of voice or yelling
Chronic Laryngitis Causes
Exposure to irritants over time is often a cause of chronic laryngitis. This kind of laryngitis can lead to vocal cord injuries, strain, or growths such as nodules or polyps. The cause of these injuries may include:
- Regular overuse of voice (cheerleaders, singers, etc.)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Chronic sinusitis
- Acid reflux (GERD)
- Inhaled irritants like smoke, allergens, or chemical fumes
Though uncommon, the following are also causes for chronic laryngitis:
- Infections that have certain parasites
- Fungal or bacterial infections
Chronic hoarseness causes:
- Bowing of vocal cords from old age
- Vocal cord paralysis from a lung tumor, stroke, injury, etc.
What Are the Symptoms of Laryngitis?
Both acute and chronic laryngitis often have similar symptoms. Most symptoms of laryngitis happen suddenly and worsen in the first three days. Those symptoms may include:
- Dry cough
- Dry throat
- Sore throat
- Rawness or tickling sensation of the throat
- Voice loss or weak voice
Who Is at Risk of Laryngitis?
Most cases of laryngitis go away after 1-2 weeks. However, some cases of laryngitis can lead to respiratory diseases that need immediate medical attention.
Some cases of laryngitis can be caused by an infection. If this is the case, there are chances that the infection could spread to other areas of your respiratory tract. However, this can be prevented if the you receive laryngitis treatment for the infection promptly.
If you have laryngitis from an underlying condition, like throat cancer or vocal cord paralysis, there could be severe complications if the condition is not treated.
What Can Increase Your Chances of Getting Laryngitis?
Certain factors can raise your chances of getting laryngitis. Some of those factors may include:
- Overuse of voice from singing, shouting, speaking too much, etc.
- Exposure to irritants like workplace chemicals, stomach acid (from conditions like GERD), excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoke, etc.
- Currently having a respiratory infection like sinusitis or a cold
- Diet that excacerbates acid reflux i.e. coffee, tea, dairy, citrus or food high in acid
How Do You Prevent Laryngitis?
You can try preventive measures to decrease your chances of developing laryngitis. Things that you can try may include:
- Avoid getting upper respiratory infections by staying away from those with upper respiratory infections like a cold; also, frequently wash your hands.
- Avoid clearing your throat because it can increase swelling from the abnormal vibration in your vocal cords and increase the swelling. Additionally, it can make your throat create more mucus and cause irritation, which can lead to clearing the throat again.
- Don’t eat spicy foods that can cause GERD or heartburn.
- Drink lots of water to keep mucus in the throat thin.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption to avoid dehydration.
- Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
How Is Laryngitis Diagnosed?
A doctor may perform a laryngoscopy to visually examine the back of your throat to see if you have laryngitis. Your doctor may also use a fiber-optic laryngoscopy to see how your vocal cords move while you speak.
In some cases, your doctor may do a biopsy if they think they see something suspicious. They will take a tissue sample to examine it under a microscope.
Most cases of acute laryngitis go away after one to two weeks, and symptoms may be eased with treatment. Some laryngitis treatment ideas that you can do at home to relieve your symptoms include:
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Using a humidifier to alleviate dryness
- Resting your voice and avoiding whispering
- Avoiding decongestants; these could make your throat even more dry
A doctor may offer you other forms of treatment if you have chronic laryngitis from an underlying cause. Or they may prescribe antibiotics if the chronic laryngitis is caused by a bacterial infection. However, antibiotics may not be given for laryngitis caused by viral infections.
Some doctors may also give you corticosteroids to decrease vocal cord inflammation. But this may only be given if you need to urgently use your voice.
When Should I See a Doctor?
While most cases of laryngitis go away by themselves, there are certain signs that you need to seek medical attention. For instance, you may need to consult a doctor if there is no improvement in your symptoms after two weeks.
If you find it hard to swallow food or drinks and your throat is very painful, you may need medical attention. Additionally, you may need to consult a doctor if you keep developing laryngitis or other voice problems.
Learning the facts about laryngitis can help you determine the cause of your condition and the right laryngitis treatment for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.