Laryngitis: What You Need to Know

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx or vocal cords, resulting in swelling and loss of voice. It can be caused by excessive singing or yelling, viral and bacterial infections, acid reflux, and irritants like cigarette smoke. Usually, laryngitis is not a serious condition; however, it can cause significant disruption in your life. Here is what you need to know about laryngitis.

Symptoms of Laryngitis

The primary symptom of laryngitis is a hoarse voice or the complete loss of voice. Other symptoms include a sore throat, coughing, pain or difficulty while swallowing, and prolonged clearing of the throat. Additional symptoms may include discoloration of the throat, dizziness, earache, and fever.

Causes of Laryngitis

Laryngitis can be caused by many different sources, including viral or bacterial infections, acid reflux, prolonged vocal use (such as singing or yelling), and irritants like cigarette smoke. Other potential causes include a foreign particle (like pollen) stuck in the throat, post-nasal drip, a reaction to allergens, dehydration, and excessive consumption of alcohol.

Treatment of Laryngitis

Treatments for laryngitis vary depending on the source of the condition. Generally, however, they include:

  • Resting the voice by refraining from speaking, and avoiding singing, laughing, and talking loudly
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Avoiding smoke, allergens, and spicy foods
  • Gargling with warm salt water
  • Using a humidifier to moisten the throat
  • Taking over-the-counter medications for pain and inflammation
  • Using steroid sprays to reduce inflammation

If the condition is caused by bacterial or viral infections, antibiotics may be prescribed. In more serious cases of laryngitis, or if it is caused by GERD, further treatments may be necessary. It is best to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Complications of Laryngitis

Most cases of laryngitis are uncomplicated and do not result in long-term problems, but in rare cases, laryngitis can cause complications. These include vocal cord nodules, inflammation of the epiglottis, and swelling of the vocal cords, which can cause breathing difficulties. In rare cases, laryngitis can lead to complications such as vocal cord paralysis, cancer of the larynx, and vocal cord polyps or tumors.

Prevention of Laryngitis

The best way to prevent laryngitis is to avoid activities that can cause strain on the vocal cords such as prolonged vocal use, smoking, and being exposed to environmental irritants. Limiting alcohol consumption, drinking lots of fluids, and using a humidifier to keep the air moist can also help prevent laryngitis.