Laryngitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

WHAT IS LARYNGITIS?

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx (voice box) due to a number
of reasons like irritation, overuse, or infection. Larynx is an organ that is
located above your windpipe (airway) and has vocal cords which plays
major role when you talk, breathe, or swallow.

Inflammation or irritation of the larynx causes your vocal cords to swell
and distorts the sounds that passes through it and makes your voice hoarse or different.

Laryngitis is not usually serious. However, if the hoarseness in the voice
persists even after treatment, it could be a symptom of a more serious
underlying problem and should be reported to your healthcare provider.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LARYNGITIS?

The vocal cords are two folds of mucous membrane located inside the
larynx that produces sound by smoothly opening, closing and vibrating.

When the vocal cords are inflamed, they can cause symptoms like:

  • Hoarseness
  • A lowered voice
  • Complete loss of voice (aphonia)
  • A tickling sensation in the throat
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Throat pain

If laryngitis is due to an infection then there can be fever and
swollen lymph nodes.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF LARYNGITIS?

  • The most common causes of laryngitis are:
  • upper respiratory infection (such as a cold)
  • Overusing the voice (such as shouting or screaming)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Chronic sinusitis with postnasal drip
  • Exposure to irritants and chemicals
  • Allergies

Long-lasting laryngitis can be a symptom of vocal nodules or vocal polyps
or even laryngeal cancer.

CAN LARYNGITIS SPREAD FROM ONE PERSON TO ANOTHER?

Laryngitis can be contagious, depending on the cause. If laryngitis is
caused by allergies, acid reflux, irritants like smoke, or overuse of your
voice, it is not contagious.

But if your laryngitis is caused by an infection, it may be contagious.
Laryngeal infection can be caused by virus (common cold, flu or COVID
19), bacteria or fungus. In such cases it can be spread when you come
into close contact with an infected person or through droplets from
coughs and sneezes. Consider wearing a mask when you’re in public to
help avoid spreading the infection.

HOW TO TREAT LARYNGITIS?

The best treatment of laryngitis is to avoid talking that is voice rest until
it resolves. If necessary, you can communicate by writing. Whispering does not rest your voice. In fact, it can agitate your vocal cords and make
your hoarseness worse.

Other treatments will depend on the underlying cause of your laryngitis
like:

  • Using a cough suppressant
  • Drinking water throughout the day
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Breathing humidified air.
  • Medications to control GERD
  • Using decongestants
  • Pain-relieving medications

If the laryngitis is due to bacterial infection, then an antibiotic need to
be started.

Lifestyle changes can also help treat laryngitis. If laryngitis is caused by
environmental irritants like secondhand smoke, try to avoid those
triggers. Treat underlying conditions like allergies or acid reflux that can
contribute to laryngitis.

Laryngitis is a condition that usually settles on its own. But if you don't
have an idea of what has caused your laryngitis or if it lasts longer than
few weeks or is accompanied by other symptoms (such as fever) you
should see a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause.

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