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DefinitionLaryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx generally associated with hoarseness or loss of voice .
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The voice box (larynx) is located at the top of the airway to the lungs (windpipe, trachea) and contains the vocal cords. When the vocal cords become inflamed or infected, they swell. This can cause hoarseness, and may occasionally cause obstruction of the airway.
Laryngitis often follows or occurs during an upper respiratory infection and is a self-limiting condition (it goes away by itself). Common laryngitis is not normally associated with any breathing difficulty ( respiratory distress).
Signs and tests
Physical examination is usually all that is necessary for the patient with self-limiting hoarseness associated with a respiratory tract infection.
Patients (particularly smokers) with persistent hoarseness will need to see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) for tests of the throat and upper airway.
Since most common laryngitis is viral, treatment with antibiotics is generally not indicated. Your health care provider will make this decision.
Voice rest helps both the voice and to reduce inflammation of the vocal cords. A humidifier may provide comfort for the scratchy feeling sometimes associated with laryngitis. Decongestants and pain killers may relieve symptoms of an accompanying upper respiratory infection.
Expectations (prognosis)Full recovery is expected in uncomplicated laryngitis.
ComplicationsOn rare occasions, severe respiratory distress requiring medical intervention may develop.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if there is difficulty in breathing, swallowing, or if drooling is present in a small child.
Call your health care provider if hoarseness is present in a child less than 3 months old.
Call your health care provider if hoarseness has lasted for more than 1 week in a child or 2 weeks in an adult.
Avoidance of upper respiratory infections during cold and flu season may help. Using good hygienic practices such as hand washing, avoiding people with infectious respiratory illnesses, and avoiding crowded, close quarters (theaters and so on) may also help.
Smoking cessation can help prevent malignancies of the head and neck, and of the lungs, which may lead to laryngitis.
Update Date: 10/12/2003James L. Demetroulakos, M.D., F.A.C.S., Department of Otolaryngology, North Shore Medical Center, Salem, MA. Clinical Instructor in Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT