Laryngitis: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

Laryngitis is swelling and inflammation of the larynx. It can be acute or chronic, although in most cases the condition is temporary and has no serious consequences.

The larynx, also referred to as the voice box, is home to the vocal cords. These are vital to the processes of breathing, swallowing, and talking. The vocal cords are two small folds of mucous membrane covering cartilage and muscle that vibrate to produce sound.

In a 2013 study of people in the United States (U.S.), 3.47 in every 1,000 people had a diagnosis of chronic laryngitis. It is thought that 21 percent of the population may develop chronic laryngitis in their lifetime.

Laryngitis is not often serious and in most cases resolves without treatment in around 7 days.

Fast facts on laryngitis

Viral infections such as colds are the most common causes of laryngitis.

Chronic laryngitis is often caused by lifestyle factors, such as ongoing exposure to irritants.

Children with laryngitis can develop another respiratory illness called croup.

A doctor may recommend additional testing in more severe cases, such as a laryngoscopy.

Acute laryngitis is best treated with self-care measures and rest.

What is laryngitis?

Man holds throat while it glows
Laryngitis is an infection of the vocal cords.

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal cords.

The vocal cords normally open and close to generate the voice with a slow, steady movement. When a person has laryngitis, their vocal cords are swollen. This changes the way air moves through the throat.

This change in airflow leads to a distortion of the sounds that the vocal cords produce. People with laryngitis will often have a voice that is hoarse, gravelly, or too quiet to hear properly.

In chronic laryngitis, the inflammation is ongoing. Vocal cords can become strained and develop growths, such as polyps or nodules.

What is croup and how is it treated?What is croup and how is it treated?
Concerned about croup? Find out more here.
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A number of conditions can cause laryngitis. Acute and chronic forms of laryngitis typically result from different factors.

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