Hoarseness

Hoarseness Symptoms & Signs

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Symptoms & Signs

Hoarseness is a harsh, rough, raspy quality to the voice. Hoarseness is generally caused by irritation of, or injury to, the vocal cords. This trauma to the vocal cords leads to a change in the pitch of the voice. The voice box, or larynx, is the portion of the respiratory (breathing) tract containing the vocal cords which produce sound. It is located between the pharynx and the trachea. The larynx, also called the voice box, is a 2-inch-long, tube-shaped organ in the neck.

Thyroid Glad Illustration - Voice Box

We use the larynx when we breathe, talk, or swallow. Its outer wall of cartilage forms the area of the front of the neck referred to as the "Adams apple." The vocal cords are two bands of muscle that form a "V" inside the larynx.

Hoarseness can be caused by a number of conditions. The most common cause of hoarseness is inflammation of the vocal cords from virus infection related to the common cold or upper respiratory infection. Hoarseness can also be caused by bacterial infection, overuse of the voice (such as from yelling and voice abuse or singing), inhalation of irritants (smoking, etc.), chronic sinusitis, allergy, reflux of acid from the stomach (GERD), tuberculosis, syphilis, stroke and neurologic disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and cancer of (or that has spread to) the larynx.

Cough suppressants are sometimes used to prevent recurrent irritation of the vocal cords from coughing. Hoarseness that persists for longer than two weeks should be evaluated by doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016

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REFERENCE:

Kasper, D., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2015.

Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Causes of Hoarseness
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Other Causes of Hoarseness
  • After Breathing Tube for Ventilator Is Removed
  • Bacterial Laryngitis
  • Cancer That Spread to the Larynx
  • Overuse (Yelling, Singing, Etc.)
  • Polyp
  • Viral Laryngitis
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis
  • Vocal Nodules
  • Voice Disorders
Examples of Medications for Hoarseness


Symptoms & Signs A-Z List