Laryngitis refers to inflammation or infection of the larynx that is most often caused by a viral infection or because of irritation to the vocal cords. An organ in the upper neck at the back end of your throat, also called the voice box, inflammation of this organ is accompanied by constant throat pain or pain while talking or swallowing along with whispering or squeaking sound while speaking since the vocal cords have swelled up.
Generally triggered by an acute viral infection or mild flu, it can persist for a period of seven to nine days. In children, some forms of laryngitis may occur known as croup or epiglottitis, which can lead to dangerous or fatal respiratory blockage. Environmental causes such as pollution can also result in larynx inflammation, or it can also occur due to exposure to tobacco smoke or harmful chemicals. Depending on the symptoms, laryngitis can be acute or chronic. Acute laryngitis is a temporary flu that improves when the underlying cause subsides. If laryngitis is present for longer than three weeks, it is considered a chronic one and may need a detailed diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms in children and adults of this ailment are almost similar and could be the following:
- Sore throat
- An itchy feeling at the base of your throat
- A low-grade fever
- Hoarse voice
- Trouble while speaking or swallowing
- Dry cough with an urge to clear your phlegm
- Swollen glands
The most common cause of acute laryngitis is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It can also happen in case you are more prone to cold and flu or have had a history of bronchitis. Fungal and bacterial infection, sinusitis, and prolonged exposure to chemicals can also trigger this disease.
How Is Laryngitis Diagnosed?
Laryngitis diagnosis is usually made by thorough physical examination and detailed history after the development of clear symptoms such as hoarseness, a sore throat or a dry cough that has been noticed for a longer period. Formal voice analysis and techniques such as fiberoptic laryngoscopy can also be used to confirm the diagnosis. If symptoms diminish in a week or two medical care is not needed. If they do not subside healthcare provider may ask for culture and examine the swab of your throat. The sample is treated with a substance that encourages germ growth. If germs that cause infection are found, then culture is considered positive. Laryngoscopy may also be done to confirm the precise diagnosis. For this an endoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth to get a better view of the vocal cords. If a nodule or lump on your vocal cords is noticed, then the healthcare provider may take a small sample of tissue and send it for detailed analysis or biopsy.
Treatment of laryngitis depends on the severity and the cause of the underlying problem. If it is because of a viral infection, symptoms disappear within five to seven days. If it is a severe viral or bacterial infection, doctors may prescribe antibiotics, along with corticosteroids, that can reduce inflammation, specifically to treat both chronic and acute viral laryngitis. In case laryngitis gets chronic, the following treatments options are advised:
This is done to treat dysphonia also called vocal cord paralysis. In this case, vocal therapy sessions by a speech pathologist is suggested. In some cases, phono surgery may be done to alter position of vocal cords or to lessen the tension caused by the voice.
Voice rest is strictly advised as use of voice during laryngitis can result in incomplete recovery. If the patient needs to speak, the patient should be instructed to use a normal phonatory voice at low volume also called ‘confidential voice’.
Inhaling humidified air increases the moisture of the upper airway is advised. This soothes the tract and helps in the removal of secretions.
Dietary restriction is recommended for the patients with acute laryngitis. This includes avoiding caffeinated drinks, spicy and fatty foods, extreme hold and cold beverages.
Another important lifestyle modification advised is that patient should drink plenty of water and the avoid of late meals. The last meal of the day should be taken at least 3 hours before sleeping.