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- Hoarseness is an abnormal change in the voice.
- The most common cause of hoarseness is acute laryngitis.
- The underlying cause of hoarseness can usually be diagnosed by a health care professional based on the patient's history and physical exam.
- The treatment for hoarseness depends on the underlying cause.
- Hoarseness can be prevented by avoiding excessive strenuous voice use and smoking cessation.
What is hoarseness?
Hoarseness is an abnormal change in the voice caused by a variety of conditions. The voice may have changes in pitch and volume, ranging from a deep, harsh voice to a weak, raspy voice.
What causes hoarseness?
Hoarseness is generally caused by irritation of, or injury to, the vocal cords. The larynx (also referred to as the voice box), is the portion of the respiratory (breathing) tract containing the vocal cords. The cartilaginous outer wall of the larynx is commonly referred to as the "Adams apple." The vocal cords are two bands of muscle that form a "V" inside the larynx. When we sing or speak, the vocal cords vibrate and produce sound.
Hoarseness can be caused by a number of conditions. The most common cause of hoarseness is acute laryngitis (inflammation of the vocal cords) caused most often by an upper respiratory tract infection (usually viral), and less commonly from overuse or misuse of the voice (such as from yelling or singing).
Other causes of hoarseness include:
- benign vocal cord nodules, cysts or polyps,
- gastroesophageal reflux (GERD),
- inhalation of respiratory tract irritants,
- thyroid problems,
- trauma to the larynx/vocal cords,
- neurological conditions (such as Parkinson's disease and strokes), and
- cancer of the larynx.