Throat pain or voice loss caused by laryngitis can make life a lot more complicated than necessary. At Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, TN, our doctors specialize in the treatment of this condition. We can help you reclaim your health and vitality.
What Is Laryngitis?
The larynx is commonly called the voice box, and it holds the vocal cords that we use to speak and sing. Laryngitis is when the larynx becomes inflamed or swollen. This condition comes in two forms: acute and chronic.
The acute version of this condition doesn’t last very long and goes away after a few days without medical assistance. Many people find that resting the voice and using throat lozenges, cough medicine, or allergy medicine helps treat the acute version of this condition at home.
The chronic or ongoing version of this condition requires medical attention to treat. Anyone who experiences recurrent laryngitis or has had the condition for two weeks or longer should make an appointment with our Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctors (Otorhinolaryngologists) as soon as possible.
The chronic version of this condition may have underlying causes that only a specialist can test, diagnose, and treat.
What Are the Symptoms of Laryngitis?
Adults and children may experience different symptoms for this condition. Often this condition is a symptom of another condition like cold, flu, or allergies. It can also be a symptom of something more serious. Only professional medical testing at our offices can reveal the cause.
Symptoms vary from case to case and person to person, but most adults experience at least one of the following:
- Low fever
- Speaking difficulty
- Throat cleaning (frequent)
- Throat pain
In most cases, the symptoms come suddenly, and you might be surprised by how different you feel from one moment to the next. Symptoms typically intensify for two or three days after they start. In acute cases, you’ll start feeling better after a few days. If your symptoms do not go away or if they get worse after three days, contact our offices in Lebanon or Gallatin to schedule an appointment.
Because this condition is sometimes a symptom of another condition or illness, you may also experience:
- Fatigue or malaise (extreme tiredness)
- Gland swelling
- Pain when swallowing
- Runny nose
Severe Symptoms in Children
Although children may experience the same symptoms as adults, there are a few more severe symptoms to watch out for. Please contact us immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms in children and one or more of the symptoms below:
- Abnormal breathing sounds (loud or wheezy)
- Breathing difficulty
- High fever
- Swallowing difficulty
What Causes Laryngitis?
Voice box injury or infection causes this condition, and both are marked by the presence of inflammation in the larynx. Something else might cause this condition, but only in rare cases. Below we explore the different injuries and infections typically responsible for creating voice box inflammation.
There are many ways we can unintentionally injure the voice box. Vocal stress and strain is the most common cause of an injured larynx. Entertainers who sing or shout frequently experience vocal cord injury, but you don’t have to entertain to experience voice box injury from yelling, excessive speaking, or singing.
Not drinking enough water can also injure the vocal cords. Dehydration impacts every part of the body, and the voice box is no different. Alcohol, cigarettes, and exposure to environmental toxins like fumes, chemicals, and allergens may also injure the vocal cords.
Allergens are another common cause, especially if you have asthma and are more complex to diagnose and treat. If allergies are the suspected cause, we must identify the allergen that triggers symptoms. In rare cases, these injuries can lead to additional ear, nose, and throat disorders that only an ENT specialist can assess and treat.
Both viral and bacterial infections can cause this condition. Viral infections, like the common cold, flu, and croup in children are the most common viral causes.
The Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria that causes strep throat is a highly contagious bacterium that can cause voice box inflammation. Strep throat shares many of the same symptoms with laryngitis, so we must rule out the presence of this or any other bacteria during testing.
Expert observation, testing, and diagnosis is the only way to determine the cause of a viral or bacterial infection. Because bacterial infections often mimic symptoms of laryngitis, it’s essential to visit us if your symptoms persist or return.
When Should You Seek Treatment for Laryngitis?
When you should seek treatment depends on how you feel and how long you’ve experienced symptoms. No two people will have the same experience with this condition, so it’s essential to listen to your body. Observe symptoms when they start and take care of yourself by seeking treatment if these symptoms continue.
When Symptoms Start
Most often, this condition goes away on its own after a few days, but you should always pay attention to symptoms and how you feel. Many people find over-the-counter throat and cough medicine and lozenges help to make symptoms more manageable. If your symptoms are unbearable, you don’t have to wait it out. It’s better to visit our specialists than to suffer.
Situational or Recurring Symptoms
If you notice that your symptoms seem to appear during certain times or in certain places, it’s a good idea to seek treatment. You may be inadvertently exposing yourself to certain environmental irritants that cause this condition. Likewise, if a sore or scratchy throat or voice loss has happened more than once in a short period, it’s also a sign that you should seek treatment.
Two Week Mark
You should seek treatment if the condition has persisted for two weeks or more, even when the symptoms aren’t bothering you very much. This is especially true if you are taking over-the-counter medication to manage symptoms. These medications are a temporary solution that masks symptoms.
Everyone experiences symptoms differently, but ongoing symptoms could be a sign of an underlying condition or illness that requires medical help.
Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child experience any severe symptoms like a high fever or difficulty breathing. In a medical context, a fever is a temperature of 100.4-degrees Fahrenheit or more. Infants with fevers at or above this threshold need immediate medical care. Fevers of 104-degrees Fahrenheit require medical attention for people of all ages.
What Can an ENT Specialist Do for Me?
An ENT or Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist is a doctor who specializes in conditions and illnesses that impact these areas of the body. Anyone who has ever had a cold, flu, or allergies understands how the ear, nose, and throat are connected. A problem in one of these areas almost always affects the other two.
As specialists for these conditions, we have unique training that allows us to diagnose, treat, and cure any issue that occurs in the ears, nose, throat, face, head, and neck. We are better equipped to handle conditions of this nature than a primary care physician or endocrinologist. Determining whether your symptoms result from an injury or infection is what we do best.
When we observe vocal cord inflammation during your appointment, we take immediate action to determine the root cause through discussion and testing. This is an individual process, and we treat you and your symptoms based on your personal situation.
Vocal Cord Injury
There are a variety of tests that may help us determine what is causing your symptoms. We first assess the factors that could contribute to vocal cord injury like a vocal strain.
Vocal Cord Infection
When we suspect infection like a cold or flu, we take measures to assess this possibility. We may give you a flu test or tests for bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat, or upper respiratory infection to rule out these severe conditions. More holistic treatment options become available only after we rule out these conditions.
Allergies and Asthma
If allergies and asthma appear to cause larynx inflammation, we’ll discuss when and where you most experience symptoms during your appointment. We may test for allergies for a variety of grasses, trees, tree nuts, flowers, mold, dust mites, and other outdoor and indoor allergens. These tests help us understand what is triggering your symptoms.
When your symptoms point to a possible bacterial infection, we use strep throat testing for diagnosis. We use a throat swab to collect a sample to use with a rapid antigen test or to look for bacteria under a microscope.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing difficulty during sleep. If your symptoms include shortness of breath or aggressive snoring when sleeping, we may run tests to rule out sleep apnea. Testing may consist of a hospital-monitored sleep study and a physical.
Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Sometimes, we may recommend patients undergo an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to diagnose the cause of larynx inflammation. This procedure allows doctors to investigate the internal structures of the body with a tiny camera while you rest in a lightly sedated state.
How Can You Prevent Laryngitis?
This condition isn’t fun, and most people would rather prevent it from happening altogether. There are several ways you can prevent inflammation of the vocal cords:
Whether you are an entertainer or frequently use your vocal cords for other reasons, it’s important to remember to take regular breaks from singing, shouting, or singing. The vocal cords need time to rest, and the more strain you put on them, the greater the chance of developing inflammation.
Both firsthand and secondhand cigarette smoke contribute to developing the swelling that defines this condition. By eliminating exposure to cigarette smoke, you are taking action to prevent developing symptoms.
Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to prevent inflammation in the voice box and all areas of the body. A healthy diet filled with vitamins and minerals supports the immune system and your general health. Improved health means you’ll get fewer colds and infections, and they won’t last as long if you get them.
Exposure to environmental irritants and chemicals cause irritation and inflammation in the throat. Avoid any allergens that trigger symptoms. If you work in construction or another industry that uses chemicals or has a lot of airborne debris, always wear a protective face mask to limit your exposure.
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of symptoms and drinking plenty of water every day can prevent larynx inflammation and the symptoms that accompany it. Alcohol dehydrates the body and limiting or omitting alcohol helps keep your body hydrated and more healthy overall.
Our ENT doctors specialize in laryngitis and can diagnose and treat it. No matter the cause, we can give you your voice back. Contact us at Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, TN to schedule an appointment.