What Is Laryngitis? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Have you ever lost your voice? This is called laryngitis, and it occurs when your voice box (larynx) is irritated or infected. Find out what causes laryngitis and how you can treat it to get back to talking in no time!

What is Laryngitis?

Have you ever woken up and been completely incapable of talking? You try, but nothing but a squeak comes out? You might say you have lost your voice, and this is known as laryngitis. Laryngitis occurs when the voice box is damaged due to irritation or infection. The voice box is formally called the larynx, which helps clarify where the name laryngitis comes from.

What Causes Laryngitis?

Inside the larynx, you have two vocal cords, each of which is covered by a mucus membrane and is controlled by muscle and cartilage. When working properly, both vocal cords vibrate and create sounds known as your voice. However, when they are irritated or infected, the vocal cords may swell, and this changes how they move. As a result, the sounds produced also change, and your voice may get raspy and 'hoarse' or it may disappear all together.

While there are chronic forms of laryngitis, most forms are short-term (acute) and occur as a result of a specific infection in the throat. Short-term laryngitis may result from over-using the voice, yelling, viral infections, or in rare cases, bacterial infections. Long-term, or chronic, laryngitis is that which lasts longer than 3 weeks. Can you imagine not being able to talk for 3 weeks?! This form of laryngitis is usually due to irritation and damage that occurs over time. Causes may include acid reflux, inhaling irritants, smoking, or drinking to excess. In some cases, viral or bacterial infections may cause chronic laryngitis, as can certain types of cancer or growths on the vocal cords.

Symptoms of Laryngitis

Laryngitis manifests through a number of symptoms, including hoarseness (that raspy sound your voice can get), a weak or complete loss of voice, a sore throat, a cough, a dry or scratchy throat, or a tickling sensation in the throat. Most symptoms disappear within a couple of weeks.

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