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Laryngitis

What is Laryngitis

The larynx is the upper part of your respiratory tract and is located in the neck. The larynx is also known as the voice box and serves the functions of respiration and voice production for speech. Laryngitis refers to any inflammation of the voice box or vocal cords.

Laryngitis may be considered to be acute (short term) lasting less than three weeks, or chronic (long term) when it lasts longer than 3 months. Laryngitis may also be a sign of an underlying systemic disease if found to be chronic.

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What can cause Laryngitis?

Laryngitis can be caused by several conditions, with potentially more than one at a time being active. Potential factors could include overuse, irritation, environmental factors or infection from bacteria or viruses.

Acute Laryngitis
Most cases of laryngitis are temporary and will improve after the underlying condition is treated. Causes of acute laryngitis can include:

  • Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). Can have major impacts on physical health and quality of life if left untreated

  • Bacterial infections, however, not commonly

  • Vocal strain through the over-usage of voice such as prolonged speaking, shouting, or singing



Chronic Laryngitis
Chronic laryngitis is when symptoms persist beyond a 3-month duration, with little or no improvement. Chronic laryngitis can result from long-term exposure to irritants and is usually more severe than acute laryngitis. Chronic laryngitis can cause vocal cord strain and injuries or growths on the vocal cords (polyps or nodules).

Causes of chronic laryngitis can include:

  • Inhaled irritants, such as chemical fumes, allergens or smoke

  • Acid reflux

  • Chronic sinusitis

  • Frequent sinus infections

  • Regular smoking and excessive alcohol drinking habits

  • Habitual overuse of your voice (such as in speakers or singers)

  • Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or pemphigoid (a skin condition)

  • Granulomatous causes such as sarcoidosis (growths due to inflammation)

 

 

Other causes of chronic hoarseness include:

  • Cancer
     

  • Vocal cord paralysis, which can result from nerve injury due to surgery, injury to the chest or neck, cancer, nerve disorders, or other health conditions
     

  • Bowing of the vocal cords

Who is more likely to be affected by Laryngitis?

Laryngitis is more likely to affect people who:
 

  • Are suffering from a respiratory infection, such as URI, bronchitis or sinusitis
     

  • Are regularly exposed to irritating substances, such as cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol intake, stomach acid or workplace chemicals
     

  • Constantly overuse or strain their voice, by vocalising a lot or very loudly, especially as part of their occupation, e.g., teachers and singers

Symptoms & Effects

Common symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • Hoarseness

  • Sore throat

  • Pain when speaking or swallowing

  • Fever

  • Cough with phlegm


 

You should seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of the following conditions:

  • Stridor (high-pitched, wheezing sound caused by disrupted airflow)

  • Recent surgery involving the neck or recurrent laryngeal nerve

  • Recent endotracheal intubation

  • Radiotherapy to the neck

  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

  • Dysphagia (pain while swallowing)

  • Odynophagia (difficulty swallowing)

Diagnosis and Testing

To assess for laryngitis, the doctor takes a comprehensive history of your symptoms and the duration you have experienced difficulties. They will also inspect and palpate around the outside of the larynx. Doctors will usually perform a Nasoendoscopy to assess the larynx and the vocal cords to observe for any redness, irritation, growth or swelling around the vocal cords.

Endoscopic photo comparison of larynx

Larynx clear of Laryngitis

Larynx affected by Laryngitis

On some occasions, the doctor may request to perform a Video Stroboscopy. This is the procedure where the vibrations of your vocal cords as you phonate, or sing are recorded.

Laryngitis Treatment Options

Once the cause of your Laryngitis has been established, the doctor can plan treatment.
 

This will usually include speech therapy, working closely with speech therapists to provide you with a holistic approach to treatment. The Speech therapists will teach you vocal exercises aimed at restoring normal vocal functions, such as voice, and swallowing.


One possible form of treatment is a procedure done under General Anaesthesia (GA) known as an Endo-Laryngeal Micro-Surgery (ELMS). In ELMS, the doctor will take close-up photos and biopsies of different sections of the larynx. The biopsies can then be taken for more definitive testing to identify the affecting microorganisms causing laryngitis, or any early cancers. This allows for more specific prescriptions of medication, and further treatment. 

Related Conditions

If you are experiencing symptoms that do not align with laryngitis, Euan’s ENT Surgery & Clinic also offers treatment for the following throat-related conditions:

If you would like to seek consultation for Laryngitis with Euan’s ENT Surgery & Clinic, please Contact Us to make an appointment.

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