While many people use the term “laryngitis” to mean voice change or hoarseness, laryngitis is actually an inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the larynx.
• Symptoms include a hoarse, strained, and sometimes barely audible voice; soreness in the throat; chronic cough; and throat irritation.
• Diagnosis: Laryngitis is usually caused by a viral upper respiratory infection. It may also be caused by laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), another infection, vocal abuse such as smoking or yelling, or inhaling noxious fumes. It is up to your doctor to determine the cause.
• Laryngitis may be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term), and its treatment depends upon the type of laryngitis and its cause. Your symptoms can initially be treated with voice rest, conservative voice use, and general rest. Drinking water, using a humidifier at home, avoiding smoke, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake may also be helpful. Throat lozenges may help, but mentholated cough drops or those with eucalyptus should be avoided as these can be extremely irritating to the vocal folds. Bacterial infections are generally treated with antibiotics.
• Once properly diagnosed, the prognosis for laryngitis is excellent.
Any “laryngitis” that lasts beyond two weeks, or fails to improve with antibiotics, should be evaluated by a physician, preferably one who can make a complete examination of the larynx and vocal folds.
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