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What is laryngitis?

Inflammation of the vocal cords can alter the way the vocal cords come together and vibrate, causing voice changes. Voice change caused by laryngitis, or voice box inflammation, can be accompanied by constant throat pain or pain with talking or swallowing.

What are the causes of laryngitis?

  • The most common cause of laryngitis is a virus. Other types of infection (rare) are bacterial or fungal.
  • Some inhaled medications can be a risk factor for laryngitis.
  • Poor vocal hygiene can lead to laryngitis or inflammation of the vocal folds. This is related to voice abuse, misuse, dehydration or indirect voice box inflammation secondary to sinus or mouth issues.
  • Smoking or vaping.
  • Autoimmune disorders such as granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s disease) or pemphigoid/pemphigus.
  • Irritants such as gastroesophageal reflux and sinus issues can indirectly cause inflammation of the vocal folds.
  • Sore or dry throat, frequent throat clearing, a sensation of thick mucus or phlegm in the throat and chronic dry cough.

How is laryngitis diagnosed?

  • Laryngitis is diagnosed clinically by symptoms such as loss of voice or change in voice that persist typically between seven and 10 days.
  • During a laryngitis period, it is important to call your health care provider to ask for management strategies as each individual’s symptoms and history are different.
  • Sometimes laryngitis may require coming into the office for an examination of your vocal folds.

How is laryngitis treated?

Based on your diagnosis after a complete workup, an individual treatment plan will be developed. Treatment options include:

  • Medication to clear up a suspected infection.
  • Voice therapy with a speech-language pathologist to improve the care and use of your voice.
  • Avoidance of irritants, including tobacco products, that caused the laryngitis.

Some patients will be treated with oral steroids with or without voice rest to help diagnose an inflammatory voice problem. However, for long-term voice problems secondary to vocal fold inflammation, it is best to avoid long-term steroid use if possible and to treat any underlying problems.

Johns Hopkins Laryngology

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Johns Hopkins laryngologists deliver state-of-the-art care for voice, swallowing and airway disorders to help you feel your best.