Laryngitis is inflammation and swelling of the larynx. The larynx is the top of the windpipe. It is where the vocal cords sit. Swelling makes it hard for the vocal cords to work. This leads to sounding hoarse or not being able to make sound.
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Laryngitis is most often caused by a viral infection.
Less often, it may be caused by:
- Growths on the larynx or vocal cords
- Overuse of the voice
- Reinkes edema—build-up of fluid in the vocal cords
- Spasmodic dysphonia—a condition that causes irregular voice breaks
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Immune system problems
- Other types of infection
Things that raise the risk of laryngitis are:
- Upper respiratory tract infections—like a cold
- Yelling, singing, and speaking loudly—for long periods of time
- Inhaling cigarette smoke or other irritating substances
- Having health problems such as:
- Snoring, mouth-breathing, or sleep apnea
- A weak immune system
- Allergies to dust, mold, and pollen
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Using inhaled asthma medicines
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Bacterial or fungal infections—much less common
Laryngitis will often go away on its own. Some causes may require medicine or treatment.
Treatment depends on the cause. Options are:
- Treating symptoms with home care such as rest, fluids, and pain medicine.
- Treating causes, such as:
- Voice strain or overuse—may improve with voice rest or (if long-term) voice therapy
- Seasonal allergies—may improve with allergy shots or medicine
- Acid reflux—may be controlled with lifestyle changes or medicine
- Bacterial infection—may need antibiotics
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://familydoctor.org
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases https://www.niaid.nih.gov
Public Health Agency of Canada https://www.canada.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
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Stachler RJ, Dworkin-Valenti JP. Allergic laryngitis: unraveling the myths. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;25(3):242-246.
Throat conditions. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/common-problems-can-affect-your-voice. Accessed January 29, 2021.