Laryngitis is a medical condition that occurs when your vocal cords or voicebox is inflamed. This inflammation may be caused by infection, irritation or overuse. At Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, TN, we understand how important speaking is in communication. That’s why, today, we reveal everything you need to know about this condition, including its symptoms.
Symptoms of Laryngitis
The most common symptoms of laryngitis are a hoarse, dry throat, a dry cough, minor throat irritation, or constant tickling felt in the back of the throat, a loss of voice and a weakened voice. These symptoms can easily be treated by speaking as little as possible and drinking non-caffeinated fluids to help lubricate your throat.
Vocal Cord Inflammation in Infants and Children
Infants and children are particularly susceptible to developing vocal cord inflammation if they frequently spend time with other children. If your children scream or sing excessively, they may develop bumps on their vocal cords. If they spend too much time with children outside your household, they can easily catch a viral or bacterial infection.
If your children tell you that their throat hurts, tell them to talk as little as possible. If you notice their voices are hoarse or weak and they have friends with a viral infection, have them drink as much liquid as possible. Viral vocal cord inflammation should clear up in about two weeks. If your children do not get better within two weeks, take them to a doctor.
Often, parents think their children have vocal cord inflammation when in reality they have epiglottitis. Epiglottitis refers to a severe bacterial infection around the epiglottis: the flap of tissue covering the larynx and trachea when you eat and drink. It is responsible for keeping foods and beverages out of your lungs when you eat and drink.
This condition most often affects children between the ages of two and six. It is treated with intravenous antibiotics. If it is severe, your child may also need to receive dexamethasone or glucocorticoids. It is prevented by the Hib (Haemophilus influenza Type B) vaccine. Here are signs your child needs immediate medical attention:
- Leaning forward to breathe
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing while lying down
- Excessive saliva
- Muffled voice
- Loud, high-pitched sounds when breathing
Causes of Laryngitis
Acute vocal cord inflammation is a temporary condition caused by excess consumption of alcohol, bacterial infection, viral infection or overuse, such as excessive yelling or talking. This type of inflammation is treated by treating the underlying condition. For instance, if you have a bacterial infection, you should take a full course of antibiotics.
If you have a bacterial infection, you should take zinc and vitamin C to help your body fight off the bacterial infection and ease the symptoms. If your acute vocal cord inflammation is caused by excessive talking, yelling or alcohol consumption, take 800 milligrams of ibuprofen, try to drink a gallon of water per day, and talk as little as possible.
Chronic vocal cord inflammation is characterized by vocal cord or voice box inflammation that lasts over three weeks. It is far more severe than acute vocal cord inflammation, has longer-lasting effects, and is caused by long-term exposure to irritants. For instance, it is often caused by smoking or living in a home with someone who smokes indoors. Other potential causes include:
- Chronic overuse of your voice
- Acid reflux
- Frequent sinus infections
- Excessive exposure to allergens
- Excessive exposure to harmful chemicals
Chronic vocal cord inflammation may also be caused by low-grade yeast infections that result from regular asthma inhaler use. However, even if you think you have chronic vocal cord inflammation, it is important to come in for a diagnosis because your symptoms may be caused by vocal cord paralysis, cancer, or changes in the shape of your vocal cords.
Diagnosis of Vocal Cord Inflammation
To diagnose vocal cord inflammation, we will start by looking at your vocal cords with a special mirror. If the initial visual diagnosis is positive, we may perform laryngoscopy to magnify your voicebox so we can see it better. During laryngoscopy, we will insert a flexible cannula with a tiny camera through your nose or mouth. Then, we will look for:
- Vocal cord swelling
- Widespread swelling
- Voicebox lesions
Vocal cord swelling is indicative of overuse. Widespread swelling is indicative of vocal cord and voice box inflammation caused by environmental factors. If we see a suspicious mass, such as a lesion, we will order a biopsy to ensure you do not have throat cancer before we create a treatment plan for your inflammation. A biopsy only requires a small tissue sample extraction.
Treatment of Vocal Cord Inflammation
If you have acute vocal cord inflammation, your symptoms should disappear within seven days without treatment. If you have acute vocal cord inflammation caused by a bacterial infection, you will need to treat the bacterial infection before you can experience relief from the vocal cord swelling. In both acute and chronic vocal cord inflammation, corticosteroids can reduce inflammation.
Steps for Rapid Relief
To minimize throat dryness, inhale steam or put a humidifier in your bedroom. Try to drink a gallon of water per day. If you can’t manage that due to excessive urination, see a urologist. In the meantime, drink at least half a gallon of water daily. Gargle 8 ounces of warm water combined with 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of baking soda.
Avoid decongestants as decongestants dry your throat. To keep your throat lubricated, suck on lozenges. To avoid straining your voice, do not whisper. Do not talk loudly or shout for extended periods. Rest your voice. Seek vocal therapy to improve upon the way you use your vocal cords.
Signs You Should See an ENT Specialist
Signs that your vocal cord inflammation is caused by a serious underlying issue include coughing up blood, debilitating throat pain, difficulty swallowing, and/or a fever that does not get better with medication. Contact us if any of the preceding symptoms persist for over a week or worsen. You should also contact us if you have symptoms of similar conditions.
Symptoms of Vocal Cord Paralysis
If you suffer from vocal cord paralysis, one or both of your vocal cords may be paralyzed. The most common symptoms of vocal cord paralysis include hoarseness, breathy sounds when speaking, loss of vocal pitch, and the inability to speak loudly. You may also lose your gag reflex, clear your throat frequently, and find coughing ineffective.
You may need to take regular breaks when speaking and breathe loudly. You may choke or cough while trying to swallow saliva, food, or drink. You should see an ENT specialist if you have unexplained, unrelenting changes to your vocal quality or extreme discomfort for over two weeks.
Symptoms of Muscle Tension Dysphonia
There are two types of muscle tension dysphonia: primary muscle tension dysphonia and secondary muscle tension dysphonia. In the case of primary muscle tension dysphonia, the muscles in your neck tense up when you speak, yell, or sing. However, there is no change in your tone.
Secondary muscle tension dysphonia causes you to over-use muscles other than your voice box to produce your voice. This causes changes in the sound of your voice. Signs you may have muscle tension dysphonia and should see a doctor include:
- Loss of vocal range when singing
- Feeling a lump in your throat
- Clearing your throat frequently
- Neck that is sore to the touch or tender
- Strained or tight voice
- Weak or airy voice
- Throat tightness and muscle aches
- Rouch, hoarse, breathy or husky voice
- Sudden vocal fading or breaks
Symptoms of Vocal Cord Lesions
The most common symptoms of vocal cord lesions, such as cysts, polyps, or nodules include vocal fatigue, loss of vocal range, extreme pain, and multiple tones. You may also experience breathiness, hoarseness, frequent loss of voice, and frequent throat clearing. Other signs include frequent coughing, general fatigue, and shooting pain from ear to ear.
Importance of Seeing an ENT Specialist for Vocal Cord Inflammation
There are several excellent reasons to see an ENT specialist for vocal cord inflammation, even though in many cases ultimately the condition can improve with rest and home remedies.
The first reason to see an ENT is that vocal cord inflammation may lead to respiratory distress, which requires immediate medical attention. It’s hard to know how your vocal cord inflammation may progress, so getting help quickly is essential. Vocal cord paralysis can lead to pneumonia and difficulty breathing.
The second reason to visit an ENT is that, if your vocal cord inflammation is caused by an underlying condition like throat cancer or vocal cord paralysis, the consequences of treating only your symptoms are severe. For instance, if you develop late-stage throat cancer, you may require an invasive procedure, chemotherapy, or worse.
What to Expect During Your Initial Consultation
During your initial consultation, we will thoroughly review your medical history and current health. We will ask you several questions about your lifestyle to help us determine if laryngoscopy is necessary. For instance, here are some of the most common questions we ask our clients during their initial consultation:
- How severe would you say your symptoms are?
- When did these symptoms start?
- Are your symptoms continuous or sporadic?
- What, if anything, eases your symptoms?
- What, if anything, exacerbates your symptoms?
- Do you use tobacco products?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- Do you have any allergies? If so, to what?
- Have you recently been diagnosed with a cold?
- Have you recently overused your vocal cords?
How to Keep Your Vocal Cords Healthy
Once you treat your bout of inflammation, it’s important that you keep your vocal cords and voice box as healthy as you can. To do this, keep your throat as moist and free from irritants as possible. Most people know the chemicals in cigarettes are irritants and they should be avoided for the health of their throat, but they aren’t the only irritants people commonly consume.
For instance, both alcohol and caffeine can irritate your throat to the point of inflammation. To avoid catching a cold or upper respiratory infection, wash your hands frequently and avoid standing within six feet of other people when possible. Wear a mask when exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace and limit your consumption of foods that trigger heartburn and indigestion.
Discover How to Soothe Your Throat Today
Do you think you or a loved one suffers from laryngitis? Would you like to learn more about this condition and what you can do to treat it? If so, contact us today at Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, TN to schedule your initial consultation.