Healthy Living

What Is Laryngitis: Get the Facts

What Is Laryngitis: Get the Facts

Key Takeaways

  • If one suffers from laryngitis, it is easy to know. Speaking may become impossible and the voice can become hoarse.
  • A variety of herbal therapies, reflex actions, some exercises and relaxation techniques are some things you can do to treat laryngitis.
  • The practices that are done to avoid infections of respiratory systems will also help in averting laryngitis.

The inflammation of the larynx is known as laryngitis.It can be an acute condition i.e., short-term in nature (lasting up to two weeks) or a chroniccondition where the symptoms last longer, mostly for more than three weeks.  In most cases, however, the condition is temporary and has no serious consequences.

The larynx is used in the process of breathing, swallowing and talking.The larynx is also called as the "voice box". It is located at the meeting point of the breathing tube and mouth. There is a flap that stops particles of food out of the larynx at the moment of swallowing, which is called the epiglottis. The vocal cords that are protected by mucus are attached to the larynx, which is a cartilage lining the inside of the trachea.These vocal cords, when inflamed affect the flow of air to the throat making the voice either hoarse or too low to be audible.

Causes and Symptoms of Laryngitis

Although there are many causes of laryngitis, the primary one is voice overuse. Teachers and performers who frequently use their voices are mostly affected. Other causes include:

  • Singing or cheering for many hours that strains the voice box
  • Excessive shouting and cheering
  • Cough as well as colds
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol 
  • Allergy triggered by dusty environments and chemicals
  • Chain smoking, second-hand smoking
  • Larynx that has developed tissue growth
  • Anxiety

It should be noted that the leading cause ofacute laryngitis is an infection by a virus. The viruses that cause a variety of most colds also cause laryngitis. In rare cases, a harmful bacterium can be responsible for causing the condition. A fungal infection can also cause laryngitis, especially in people who have a weak immune system, such as people living with HIV/AIDS.

A cold is the first symptom. Other symptoms may include:

In some cases, the individual finds itdifficult to swallow. It is also possible for an individual to lose his/her voice when attempting to talk.

Blocking of the air way can occur in very rare cases. Small children are likely to experience it since they have a smaller diameter of the air way. At such moment, the breathing rate of the baby will be higher than normal, and he/she may produce high-pitch sounds.

Diagnosis of Laryngitis

It is easy to find out whether one suffers from laryngitissince the vocal chords are affected. Speaking may become impossible and the voice can become hoarse. This could be due to an advanced flu or due to too much yelling and jeering. It is easy to recognize theunderlying condition and start treatmentfor the same. This can be easily done at home.

It is, however, important to consult a doctor if the symptoms occur without any apparent reason. In a situation where the said symptoms have persisted for more than two weeks, seeking medical advice is a must. The doctor will first ask questions to learn the history behind the cold, the causes that have led to the hoarse voice. A look at the throat will show that it is red and swollen. There may be harsh wheezing sounds when using a stethoscope to listen to the neck, chest, and back during breathing.

Where there is persistent hoarseness, the doctor may refer the person to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist for further examination and treatment.

The doctor would also check the throat for lesions or mass and, if he deems it necessary, will send a piece of the tissue for testing to rule out cancer of the throat.

Treatment

A variety of herbal therapies, reflex actions, some exercises and relaxation techniques are some measures that can be adopted in the treatment of laryngitis.

One way is to alleviate the symptoms by resting the vocal chords. These measures include refraining from singing shouting, or talking. Whispering too strains the voice and affects the recovery of the vocal cords. Thus professional speech training can help with the treatment.

Smoking and being around smokers too should be avoided.

Medicines to control the pain can also be used.

If the symptoms persiststill, it is important to seek the advice of a doctor. You can consult your primary care provider for the treatment of laryngitis. However, in case the laryngitis still persists, you might be referred to an otolaryngologist, who specializes in ear, nose and throat (ENT) diseases. 

In cases of chronic laryngitis, the cause or causes of the inflammation is identified and treatment aimed accordingly to reduce the symptoms and thus bring about improvements in the affected person’s health.

In some cases corticosteroids are also prescribed to reduce the inflammation of the vocal cord in order to give immediate relief.  This measure is adopted selectively where there is anurgent need for the same such as in the cases of professional speakers and singers.

Surgery may sometimes be advised in cases where the vocal cords are severely impaired.

Prevention

The best way to keep the vocal cords healthy is to see to it that they are always moist and avoid doing things that can irritate it.

There are some practices that should be adopted to avoid infections of the respiratory system that will also help in averting laryngitis.

The best way to prevent laryngitis is to keep your hands clean by regular and thorough washing. Coming into contact with infected individuals should also be avoided.This will help in a great measure to reduce the risk of viral infections that can lead to laryngitis.

Some peopleneed to talk a lot and address crowds regularly and loudly.They are people pursuing professions such as public speaking (speakers and politicians), actingand teaching. They should rest their voices afterlong hours of talking during the day.

 Moreover, drinking herbal juices before giving a lengthy speech could help soothe the larynx.

 Relaxation techniques can also be adopted if someone has laryngitis due to anxiety.

Last but not the least, clearing the throat can lead to irritation of the throat and hence should be avoided.