Laryngitis is a condition characterised by inflammation of the voice box or larynx.

A young boy having his throat checked by a nurse

Laryngitis occurs when the larynx, the organ which houses the vocal cords, becomes swollen, often resulting in hoarseness or a lost voice. The condition can be categorised as either acute or chronic, with chronic laryngitis lasting more than three weeks. 

Although frequently occurring as a result of an upper respiratory tract infection, laryngitis is not always infectious in origin. While laryngitis can result from either a viral or a bacterial infection, other possible laryngitis causes include:

What are its symptoms?

Laryngitis symptoms include:

  • Raspy or hoarse voice. Voice may disappear completely and difficulty speaking may last for up to a week after the other symptoms have cleared
  • Sore throat
  • Discomfort or difficulty when swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Mild fever

Other symptoms may accompany laryngitis, such as headache or nasal congestion – usually these are symptoms of whichever infectious organism is responsible for the laryngitis, such as a cold or the flu.

How is it diagnosed? 

Usually a physical examination in the doctor’s rooms is sufficient to make a laryngitis diagnosis. 

Chronic laryngitis, common in smokers particularly, may require investigation from an ear, nose and throat specialist who may order a procedure called a laryngoscopy to examine the vocal cords. A laryngoscopy can be done with a bright light and tiny mirror, or in some cases, may involve passing a light with a miniature camera attachment up through your nose and into your throat to observe the larynx as you talk.

What are your treatment options? 

Treatment for laryngitis is usually not necessary – typically recovery from laryngitis occurs within a week or so without any special measures. Self care, such as resting your voice, drinking plenty of liquids, cough suppressants in the case of laryngitis caused by coughing, and the use of an air humidifier may help speed up the recovery process. 

The treatment of chronic laryngitis relies on identifying and correcting the underlying cause. This may mean quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption or effectively addressing allergies.

Can it be prevented? 

Being a condition most frequently caused by a viral infection, the key to laryngitis prevention is avoiding being infected with those causative organisms in the first place. Common-sense measures such as good personal hygiene, a healthy lifestyle and ensuring that you go for the flu vaccination each year can help reduce your risk. 

Lower your chances of non-infectious laryngitis by avoiding anything that may irritate the larynx, such as periods of prolonged shouting or loud singing, known allergens, smoking, and alcohol consumption beyond the recommended daily limit. 

Use additional pillows when sleeping to raise your head, so that night-time acid reflux doesn’t aggravate the throat.

What to do now

To make an appointment for a flu vaccination at a Clicks Clinic call 0860 254 257, or visit Clicks Clinics online.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com 

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in June 2016