Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx or vocal fold swelling. During an episode of laryngitis individuals may notice a hoarse or breathy voice. Profound laryngitis may leave someone completely hoarse, and unable to produce sound. Most commonly laryngitis is used to describe a sudden change of the vocal folds which causes symptoms of hoarseness over a very short period of time. Laryngitis typically occurs with voice overuse during or after a cold or upper respiratory infection. However, laryngitis can be due to a number of causes including allergies, post nasal drip, reflux, fungus, or other infections.
Laryngitis – This image shows normal vocal folds in the top half and laryngitis with swollen and inflamed vocal folds in the bottom half.
What causes the voice changes in laryngitis?
Vocal fold inflammation is commonly due to the accumulation of proteins and water in the vocal folds which disturbs the delicate layer of the vocal folds. When the vocal folds are swollen, they are unable to vibrate normally which results in production of a hoarse voice.
What do I do if I have laryngitis?
The best recommendation is to rest the voice and avoid speaking. Some individuals try to “push through it” and force voice to come out. However, this may cause someone to speak in an altered voice, causing people to have habits that are difficult to break even after the swelling is resolved.
During these times it is best to remain properly hydrated and continue with proper nutrition.
Laryngitis, or any voice problem, that lasts for more than a few weeks should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist.