Inflammation of the voice box (larynx); can result from many causes; specific cause needs to be identified for correct diagnosis and proper treatment planInflammation
Response to injury that results in swelling, redness, and/or pain
What are the symptoms of laryngitis?
Hoarseness: The Most Common Patient Complaint
The most common symptom of laryngitis is hoarseness. Hoarseness is usually a raspy or husky sound of the voice resulting from swelling within the vocal fold. Swelling limits the normal vibratory movement of the vocal fold during phonation, which causes the sound produced to be less harmonic and raspier. (For more information, see Anatomy & Physiology of Voice Production.)
Swelling Causes the Typical “Low Voice”
In some cases, swelling may limit the ability of the vocal folds to vibrate at higher speeds (frequencies), which are needed to produce high-pitched sounds. This causes a decrease in the pitch range and affects high notes more severely, thus resulting in a “low voice.”
Severe Swelling Causes Loss of Voice
If there is significant swelling of the vocal folds, they may not be able to vibrate at all, and no sound or only a whisper is produced.
Other symptoms of laryngitis include:
- Sore throat
- Dry throat
- Itchy throat
- Sensation of something stuck in the throat
- Difficulty breathing (rare)
These symptoms are not always present when laryngitis occurs. They may also occur as symptoms of problems other than laryngitis.
How do I know if I have laryngitis?
First Sign: Hoarseness
The development of hoarseness is usually the first sign of laryngitis. However, hoarseness can be a sign of other voice problems as well. (For more information, see Overview of Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention.)
The voice should not be used excessively during laryngitis in the absence of evaluation by an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist (otolaryngologist). In some cases of laryngitis, excessive voice use can cause further and irrevocable injury to the vocal folds, leading to vocal fold hemorrhage, vocal fold scar, and/or vocal fold lesions. Examples of excessive voice use include singing, acting, performing, lecturing, or excessive talking or phone use.
Hoarseness Longer Than 14 Days Must Be Evaluated
Hoarseness persisting longer than 14 days should be evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) or ENT voice specialist (laryngologist).
Vocal Fold Bleeding Is a Voice Emergency
The sudden onset of hoarseness over the course of minutes to 24 hours after strenuous vocal use (such as singing, acting, yelling, screaming, coughing, vomiting) may indicate vocal fold bleeding (hemorrhage), which is an emergency requiring immediate examination by a laryngologist or otolaryngologist.
Patient education material presented here does not substitute for medical consultation or examination, nor is this material intended to provide advice on the medical treatment appropriate to any specific circumstances.
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