Voice Information >  Voice Disorders > Laryngitis > Understanding Laryngitis

Understanding the Disorder | Symptoms Diagnosis | Treatment | Types of Acute Laryngitis

Key Glossary Terms

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 is laryngitis?
Inflammation of the Larynx

  • Laryngitis is diffuse (widespread) or local inflammation of the voice box (larynx) in response to chronic or acute irritation caused by mechanical, chemical, allergic, or infectious agents.
  • This irritation usually results in redness (erythema) and swelling (edema) of any part of the larynx, and is commonly labeled laryngitis.
  • Usually, the laryngitis (redness and swelling) will resolve when the irritants are removed from contact with the larynx.
Two Main Types of Laryngitis
Type Determined by How Long Inflammation Lasts
  • Acute laryngitis:Short-lived inflammation of the larynx
  • Chronic laryngitis: Prolonged inflammation of the larynx

Acute Laryngitis

  • If the contact with the irritant is sudden and short-lived, the laryngitis will occur abruptly and will improve when the irritant is removed.
  • Common causes of acute laryngitis include:
    • Upper respiratory tract infection from bacteria, viruses, and some fungi or molds
  • Other, less common, causes of acute laryngitis include:
    • Exposure to highly concentrated air pollutants (such as spray paints, oven cleaners, or other solvents)
    • Smoke inhalation during a closed-space fire
    • Deliberate inhalation of heated fumes (such as with smoking crack cocaine)
    • Blunt or penetrating trauma to the larynx

Chronic Laryngitis

When the exposure to the irritant is prolonged, the laryngitis will remain as long as the irritant is present

Common causes of chronic laryngitis include:

  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux
  • Allergies
  • Tobacco smoking (cigarettes or cigars)
  • Marijuana use
  • Use of inhaled steroids or other oral inhalers
  • Some fungal and bacterial infections
  • Voice misuse or abuse
  • Chronic cough

Laryngitis results when the larynx is exposed to an irritant. Some irritants can cause both acute and chronic laryngitis; other irritants cause only one type of laryngitis.

Common Causes
of Laryngitis
Type of Laryngitis
(longer term)
Bacterial x
Viral x
Fungal x x
Reflux x x
Pollutants x x
Smoking x
Inhaled Medications x
Caustic Ingestions x x
Vocal Misuse x x
Vocal Abuse x
Trauma x x
Allergies x x
Dryness (Laryngitis Sicca)
Dehydration x x
Dry Atmosphere x x
Mouth Breathing x x
Medications x x
Closed-Space Fire x x
Crack Pipe x x

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