Laryngitis

What Is It?

Laryngitis is an inflammation or infection of the voice box (larynx) and the vocal cords it contains. Laryngitis makes the vocal cords swell, changing the way they vibrate and the sound of the voice. Depending on the degree of swelling, the voice may become mildly hoarse, turn into a croak or whisper or even disappear temporarily.

Laryngitis often occurs along with a viral infection, such as a cold or flu. Hoarseness tends to appear later in the illness, after the sore throat, sneezing, coughing and other symptoms. Bacterial infections of the breathing tubes (bronchitis) or lung (pneumonia) also can infect the larynx and cause laryngitis. And laryngitis can occur when the vocal cords are inflamed by straining the voice, such as when yelling or singing very hard.

Symptoms

Symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • Hoarseness

  • Raw throat

  • The feeling that you need to clear your throat

Diagnosis

Doctors examine vocal cords using an instrument with a light and a mirror placed in the back of the throat, which allows the doctor to see the vocal cords reflected in the mirror. Another way to view the vocal cords is with a flexible fiberoptic scope. The doctor passes the scope through the nose into the back of the throat.

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