Laryngitis refers to inflammation of the voice box (larynx). There are many possible causes of Laryngitis. The more common sources of inflammation are infection, misuse of voice (shouting or screaming), and acid reflux. Inflammation causes tissues of the larynx to swell, and if this swelling affects the vocal folds, it will lead to hoarseness. Laryngitis usually results in hoarseness; however, hoarseness can be caused by many other vocal fold pathologies as outlined in this section.
Laryngitis often results in hoarseness that is aggravated by voice use. Laryngitis may be short term (acute) or long term (chronic).
Acute Laryngitis is more likely to result from infection or voice misuse. If the reason for the Laryngitis is infectious, there may also be other symptoms such as fever, cough and a sore throat.
Chronic Laryngitis is more likely to be due to acid reflux disease or a vocal fold lesion. If the hoarseness persists beyond two weeks, the vocal folds should be examined and visualized in order to identify the reason for the change in the voice.
Treatment of Laryngitis is based on the source of the inflammation and length of time the patient has been experiencing the symptoms. Infectious Laryngitis is largely secondary to a viral source, and is usually treated conservatively with voice rest and hydration. Medications are not commonly prescribed, since bacterial or fungal Laryngitis are fairly rare.
Laryngitis secondary to misuse of voice (vocal trauma) is also treated conservatively with voice rest and hydration. If there is recurrent vocal trauma and Laryngitis, voice therapy is prescribed to eliminate the vocal misuse.
Treatment for chronic Laryngitis is often more complicated, and may involve multiple modes of therapy, including voice therapy, medication, and occasionally surgery. Any hoarseness that persists beyond two weeks requires an examination of the vocal folds, especially in smokers, who have a high risk of Laryngeal Cancer.