Laryngitis is inflammation of the voice box, or larynx, resulting in voice changes such as hoarseness or loss of the voice completely in some cases. It is most commonly due to an infection such as the common cold or flu and typically follows a period of experiencing a cough or sore throat. However, laryngitis can also develop in response to chronic irritation of the larynx. For example, some conditions like gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), some cancers, chronic tonsillitis, and other conditions can lead to inflammation. Voice overuse and irritants like cigarette smoke can also lead to irritation of the voice box and laryngitis.
Other symptoms that might be present, depending on the cause of the laryngitis, include
- throat pain,
- pain when swallowing,
- runny nose,
- stuffy nose,
- nasal congestion,
- enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands),
- a sensation of fullness in the throat,
- difficulty swallowing (dysphagia),
- regurgitation of food or stomach contents.
In the case of infection, the throat may appear reddened or there may be whitish deposits in the throat.
Other causes of laryngitis
- Bacterial Infection
- Fungal Infection
- Nerve Damage (Vocal Cord Paralysis)
- Polyps of the Larynx
- Smoke or Irritant Inhalation
- Use of Inhaled Steroids
- Viral Infection
- Vocal Cord Nodules
- Voice Overuse
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Do I Have Pneumonia? Symptoms & Signs
Pneumonia can be deadly. Take the Pneumonia Quiz on MedicineNet to learn more about this highly contagious, infectious disease.
Respiratory Illnesses: 12 Types of Lung Infections
Is your cough caused by a cold, flu, pneumonia or something else? Learn causes of respiratory infection like bronchitis,...
Sore Throat or Strep Throat? How to Tell the Difference
Is this a sore throat or could it be strep throat? Your medical care depends on knowing if you have a viral infection or a...
Strep (Streptococcal) Throat Infection Quiz: Test Your Infectious Disease IQ
Take the Strep (Streptococcal) Throat Infection Quiz to learn about causes, symptoms, treatments, prevention methods, diagnosis,...
Causes of Laryngitis
19 Tips on How to Stop a Cough
Coughing is a reflex that helps a person clear their airways of irritants. There are many causes of an excessive or severe cough including irritants like cigarette and secondhand smoke, pollution, air fresheners, medications like beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, the common cold, GERD, lung cancer, and heart disease. Natural and home remedies to help cure and soothe a cough include stay hydrated, gargle saltwater, use cough drops or lozenges, use herbs and supplements like ginger, mint, licorice, and slippery elm, and don't smoke. Over-the-counter products (OTC)to cure and soothe a cough include cough suppressants and expectorants, and anti-reflux drugs. Prescription drugs that help cure a cough include narcotic medications, antibiotics, inhaled steroids, and anti-reflux drugs like proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, for example, omeprazole (Prilosec), rabeprazole (Aciphex), and pantoprazole (Protonix).
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
The common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and maybe a fever. Antibiotics have no effect upon the common cold, and there is no evidence that zinc and vitamin C are effective treatments.
Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. The flu may be prevented with an annual influenza vaccination.
GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition in which the acidified liquid contents of the stomach backs up into the esophagus. The symptoms of uncomplicated GERD are: heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea. Effective treatment is available for most patients with GERD.
Infectious mononucleosis is a virus infection in which there is an increase of white blood cells that are mononuclear (with a single nucleus) "Mono" and "kissing disease" are popular terms for this very common illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Is Laryngitis Contagious?
Laryngitis is inflammation and swelling of the voice box (larynx). Causes of laryngitis are viral, bacterial, fungal, strenuous singing or talking, chemical irritants, and other underlying medical conditions. Symptoms of laryngitis are hoarseness, a weak or loss of voice, sore throat, dry throat, a tickling sensation in the back of the throat, or irritated or raw throat. Treatment of laryngitis depends upon the cause.
Larynx Cancer (Throat Cancer)
Symptoms and signs of cancer of the larynx, the organ at the front of the neck, include hoarseness, a lump in the neck, sore throat, cough, problems breathing, bad breath, earache, and weight loss. Treatment for larynx cancer depends on the stage (the extent) of the disease. Radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy are all forms of treatment for laryngeal cancer.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious viral infection. Symptoms include fever and nasal congestion and discharge. Treatment focuses on supportive care. This disease has a good prognosis in babies and infants.
Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)
Sinus infection (sinusitis) is caused by allergies, infection, and chemicals or other irritants of sinuses. Signs and symptoms are headache, fever, and facial tenderness, pressure, or pain. Treatments of sinus infections are generally with antibiotics and at times, home remedies.
Smoking (How to Quit Smoking)
Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or "passive smoke" also harm family members, coworkers, and others around smokers. There are a number of techniques available to assist people who want to quit smoking.
Tonsillitis and Adenoiditis
Tonsillitis is a contagious infection with symptoms of bad breath, snoring, congestion, headache, hoarseness, laryngitis, and coughing up blood. Tonsillitis can be caused acute infection of the tonsils, and several types of bacteria or viruses (for example, strep throat or mononucleosis). There are two types of tonsillitis, acute and chronic. Acute tonsillitis lasts from one to two weeks while chronic tonsillitis can last from months to years. Treatment of tonsillitis and adenoids include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies to relieve pain and inflammation, for example, salt water gargle, slippery elm throat lozenges, sipping warm beverages and eating frozen foods (ice cream, popsicles), serrapeptase, papain, and andrographism Some people with chronic tonsillitis may need surgery (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy).
Examples of Medications for Laryngitis
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- Nitrofurantoin vs. Amoxicillin
- Nitrofurantoin vs. Cephalexin
- Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Suprax (cefixime) vs. Augmentin
- Suprax (cefixime) vs. azithromycin
- Suprax (cefixime) vs. cefpodoxime
- Suprax (cefixime) vs. cefuroxime
- Suprax (cefixime) vs. Keflex (cephalexin)
- Suprax (cefixime) vs. Rocephin (ceftriaxone)
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter