Laryngitis is the swelling of the vocal cords and is caused by discomfort, illness, or overuse of the voice box. Laryngitis can either be long-lasting (chronic) or short-term (acute). The swelling that causes laryngitis can be a result of various situations. Some of the causal conditions include illnesses caused by a virus, environmental conditions, and infections caused by bacteria (rarely).
Causes of Laryngitis
An irritated and inflamed voice box causes laryngitis. The condition is usually a result of a damaged or infected larynx.
The most common illnesses that result in acute laryngitis include the cold or flu. The lesser common forms of infections include:
The kinds of people who are perceived to be more vulnerable to fungal laryngitis are those with weakened immune systems caused by diseases such as HIV/AIDS and some treatments like chemotherapy and steroid therapies. Infectious laryngitis results from infections that are caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
Talking, singing, or shouting in a loud voice for long periods of time are some of the strenuous activities that can damage your larynx, consequently leading to laryngitis. These activities can make your vocal cords vibrate at a higher rate beyond their normal functions. Your vocal cords can be damaged, hence, making them swollen as a result of overworking them. Mechanical laryngitis is a type of laryngitis that results from a damaged larynx. Other rare mechanical laryngitis causes are:
- Direct trauma to the larynx – an impact to your throat, sports-related injuries, or accidents.
- Persistent cough
- Frequent clearing your throat for a long period of time.
Other Causes of Laryngitis
Apart from an injured or damaged larynx, other possible causes of laryngitis include:
- Irritation and dryness of the larynx as a result of smoking and alcohol abuse.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Allergic reaction to dust, fumes, chemicals, and toxins.
Chronic or long-term laryngitis often arises from these causes.
Laryngitis has an adverse impact on your vocal folds and voice box. At first, your physician will do a visual diagnosis on you. Your physician uses a particular mirror to have a look at your vocal cords. Alternatively, he/she will carry out a laryngoscopy to get a larger view of the voice box. Your physician will then place a thin flexible tube with a microscopic camera through your mouth or nose. He/she will check for laryngitis symptoms such as:
- Reddened larynx
- Voice box injury
- Large inflammation, which indicates that the laryngitis is caused by environmental conditions.
- Inflammation of vocal cords only, which indicates a misuse of the vocal cords.
Your physician may request for a biopsy if he/she notices a wound/injury or other suspicious mass to eliminate the possibility of cancer. When carrying out a biopsy, your physician will take a sample of flesh for laboratory examination.
Healthy vocal cords
Keeping your vocal cords and voice box moist and irritant-free is the most appropriate way of ensuring that they are healthy. You can keep them free from irritants by:
- Avoiding both primary and second-hand smoke.
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Frequently washing your hands to prevent colds and infections in the upper airway.
- Avoiding harmful chemicals at your workplace as much as possible.
You can also reduce mucus production and discomfort on your throat by trying to avoid clearing your throat whenever possible.