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Laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal cords which results in swelling, redness and stiffness. This makes it difficult for the vocal cords to vibrate freely, an action crucial to the normal production of sound.

When the vibration is smooth and effortless, the voice is clear. When the vibration is irregular (due to laryngitis), the voice becomes rough and strained.

When the vocal cords are inflamed and painful, increased effort is required to initiate vocal cord vibration, which leads to early onset vocal fatigue.

Types & Causes

Laryngitis may occur suddenly (acute) or progressively over a long time (chronic).

Acute Laryngitis

  1. From an upper respiratory tract infection or vocal strain
  2. With proper voice rest and treatment, acute laryngitis will usually resolve quickly

Chronic Laryngitis

  1. If the inciting event continues (e.g. a teacher straining to speak for hours in class when she already has acute laryngitis), the inflammation will worsen, leading to chronic laryngitis
Symptoms
  1. Rough voice
  2. Lowered pitch
  3. Difficulty projecting your voice
  4. Early onset voice fatigue
  5. Pain or soreness in your neck after speaking
Diagnosis

The diagnosis of acute and chronic laryngitis will involve both an understanding of the patient’s history of voice use and voice condition, as well as a physical examination.

Videolaryngostroboscopy:

  1. This involves the examination of your vocal cords using a flexible nasendoscopy or a rigid laryngoscope
  2. Examines vocal cord movement as you speak
Treatment

Acute Laryngitis

Most patients with acute laryngitis recover after around 5 days of voice rest. Any underlying medical condition such as sinusitis, reflux and nasal allergies should be treated.

Chronic Laryngitis

If your hoarseness persists beyond 3 weeks, you may have chronic laryngitis. Usually there is an underlying unresolved vocal irritant that is causing the inflammation to persist.

  1. Self-Care
    1. Voice rest
    2. Do not whisper – write to communicate
    3. Breathe in moist air (steam or humidifier)
    4. Stay hydrated
    5. Do not use nasal decongestants (dries throats)
    6. Avoid spicy food, dairy, citrus fruits, caffeine and alcoholic products
    7. Avoid clearing your throat
    8. Stop smoking
  2. Doctor’s Prescription
    1. Antibiotics
      1. Only if the laryngitis was caused by a bacterial infection
      2. Usually a viral infection, so antibiotics usually not needed
    2. Corticosteroids
      1. Reduces vocal cord inflammation
      2. Only for short term use, so long term lifestyle & diet modification is vital
    3. Other Medications
      1. E.g. anti-reflux, antihistamines, cough medicines
      2. Used to treat all other underlying medical conditions that results in excessive coughing, nose-blowing and throat clearing
Know Your ENT Specialist
Dr Paul Mok
Senior Consultant ENT Surgeon
MBBS, FRCS (Glasgow), FAMS (ORL)

Dr Paul Mok Kan Hwei is a certified specialist in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (ENT) and has had a distinguished career in public service for the past 23 years.

He cares for patients with a wide variety of ENT conditions including managing patients with nasal allergies, sinus infections, ear problems and swellings in the head and neck region. His special areas of interests are in Voice, Swallowing and managing patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.