Within your throat are two bands of elastic muscle tissue known as your vocal cords. When working well, they open and close smoothly, creating sounds through their vibrations and movement. If your vocal cords become inflamed or irritated, it can lead to a common voice disorder known as laryngitis.
Why Does Laryngitis Occur?
Laryngitis has two distinct types, acute and chronic.
Acute laryngitis is short-lived and is caused by a viral infection. Vocal strain from yelling or voice overuse can also cause the vocal cords to swell, distorting your voice. A bacterial infection, while less common, can also lead to this type of laryngitis.
Anything lasting longer than three weeks is categorized as chronic. This type of laryngitis is caused by:
- Vocal strain
- Vocal cord polyps or nodules
- Vocal cord injury
- Inhaled irritants
- Acid reflux
- Chronic sinusitis
- Alcohol use
While less common, infections from bacteria, fungi, a parasite, cancer and vocal cord disorders such as paralysis or bowing can also lead to chronic laryngitis.
Common symptoms of laryngitis include:
- Voice loss
- Weak voice
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Dry throat
Depending on the degree of infection or irritation, symptoms can range from mild to severe.
How Is Laryngitis Treated?
In order to make a diagnosis, your ear, nose and throat doctor will listen to your voice and examine your vocal cords. In order to get a better look, a laryngoscopy may be performed. This procedure uses a thin, flexible tube known as an endoscope with a lightened camera on the end. It is inserted through your nose or mouth down the back of your throat so your doctor can watch your vocal cords as you speak.
If needed, a sample of your vocal cords, known as a biopsy, will be taken.
Most cases of acute laryngitis will resolve on their own within a few weeks by resting your voice, drinking plenty of fluids and using a humidifier. Those with chronic laryngitis may require antibiotics or corticosteroids, depending on the cause.
Determining the cause of the vocal swelling is key, as many of the irritants can be avoided.
To learn more about how to protect your vocal cords or to schedule an appointment with an ENT professional, contact Arizona Desert ENT Specialists.