Laryngitis is inflammation of your larynx (voice box), usually caused by an infection.
Laryngitis is when your larynx becomes inflamed. It's often caused by a viral infection.
Your larynx is found at the front of your neck at the level of your 'Adam's apple'. It’s often much easier to notice in men than it is in women. It’s an air passage that extends from your tongue to your wind pipe (trachea) and produces the sounds you make when you speak. It also stops food entering your wind pipe and allows you to breathe.
There are two types of laryngitis. Acute laryngitis starts suddenly and will usually go away on its own. This is the most common type of laryngitis. If your symptoms last for more than three weeks, this is known as chronic laryngitis. The term ‘chronic’ refers to how long you may have laryngitis, not to how serious the condition is.
Your symptoms can vary depending on how inflamed your larynx is. The possible symptoms include:
These symptoms aren’t always caused by laryngitis and may be caused by other problems. If you have any of these symptoms and they are persistent, see your GP for advice.
If you have acute laryngitis, you’re unlikely to have any complications. Chronic laryngitis may make you feel breathless. If you’re struggling with breathing, such as unable to complete a full sentence, you should seek urgent medical attention. Other complications of chronic laryngitis might include the loss of your voice or a chronic cough.
There are several possible causes of laryngitis which include:
Laryngitis can develop quite abruptly, but it usually gets better on its own. If your symptoms last for more than three weeks, see your GP. Your GP may refer you to a doctor who specialises in conditions of the ear, nose and throat (an ENT surgeon).
An ENT surgeon may look down your throat to find out what’s causing your symptoms. This procedure is called a laryngoscopy. It will involve the surgeon examining your larynx using a flexible tube called a laryngoscope. You will be given a local anaesthetic.
If you have a laryngoscopy. Sometimes, a biopsy (a small sample of tissue) may be taken at the same time as a laryngoscopy. If so, you’ll have a general anaesthetic.If you have chronic laryngitis with no clear cause, your surgeon may refer you to a speech therapist. They might be able to give you some exercises to do to help reduce the hoarseness of your voice.
Your treatment will depend on your symptoms. Usually, you can treat laryngitis yourself at home. There are several things that you can do to help relieve your symptoms, which are listed below.
Chronic laryngitis may be caused by a separate condition such as GORD or bronchitis. If you have any of these conditions, they will need to be treated. Treatment of any related conditions will help to improve the symptoms of your laryngitis.
Produced by Kuljeet Battoo, Bupa Health Information Team, April 2014.
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