|Pronunciation pronunciation: /ˌlærənˈdʒaɪtɪs/|
Symptoms hoarse voice, fever, pain
Duration usually less than 2 weeks
Causes viral, trauma, bacterial
Differential diagnosis epiglottitis, laryngeal cancer
Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx (voice box). Symptoms often include a hoarse voice and may include fever, cough, pain in the front of the neck, and trouble swallowing. Typically, these last under two weeks.
- Signs and symptoms
- Voice quality
- Autoimmune disorders
- Visual diagnosis
- Acute laryngitis
Laryngitis is categorised as acute if it lasts less than three weeks and chronic if symptoms last more than three weeks. Acute cases usually occur as part of a viral upper respiratory tract infection. Other infections and trauma such as from coughing are other causes. Chronic cases may occur due to smoking, tuberculosis, allergies, acid reflux, rheumatoid arthritis, or sarcoidosis. The underlying mechanism involves irritation of the vocal cords.
Concerning signs that may require further investigation include stridor, history of radiation therapy to the neck, trouble swallowing, duration of more than three weeks, and a history of smoking. If concerning signs are present the vocal cords should be examined via laryngoscopy. Other conditions that can produce similar symptoms include epiglottitis, croup, breathing in a foreign body, and laryngeal cancer.
The acute form generally gets better on its own. Resting the voice and sufficient fluids may help. Antibiotics generally do not appear to be useful in the acute form. The acute form is common while the chronic form is not. The chronic form occurs most often in middle age and is more common in men than women.
Signs and symptoms
The primary symptom of laryngitis is a hoarse voice. Because laryngitis can have various causes, other signs and symptoms may vary. They can include:
Aside from a hoarse-sounding voice, changes to pitch and volume may occur with laryngitis. Speakers may experience a lower or higher pitch than normal, depending on whether their vocal folds are swollen or stiff. They may also have breathier voices, as more air flows through the space between the vocal folds (the glottis), quieter volume and a reduced range.
Laryngitis can be infectious as well as noninfectious in origin. The resulting inflammation of the vocal folds results in a distortion of the sound produced there. It normally develops in response to either an infection, trauma to the vocal folds, or allergies. Chronic laryngitis may also be caused by more severe problems, such as nerve damage, sores, polyps, or hard and thick lumps (nodules) on the vocal cords.
The larynx itself will often show erythema (reddening) and edema (swelling). This can be seen with laryngoscopy or stroboscopy (method depends on the type of laryngitis). Other features of the laryngeal tissues may include:
Some signs and symptoms indicate the need for early referral. These include:
Treatment is often supportive in nature, and depends on the severity and type of laryngitis (acute or chronic). General measures to relieve symptoms of laryngitis include behaviour modification, hydration and humidification.
Vocal hygiene (care of the voice) is very important to relieve symptoms of laryngitis. Vocal hygiene involves measures such as:
Voice hygiene programs are given by speech-language pathologists. These programs typically include the following components:
In general, acute laryngitis treatment is involves vocal hygiene, painkillers (analgesics), humidification and antibiotics.
The suggested treatment for viral laryngitis involves vocal rest, pain medication, and mucolytics for frequent coughing. Home remedies such as tea and honey may also be helpful. Antibiotics are not used for treatment of viral laryngitis.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial laryngitis, especially when symptoms of upper respiratory infection are present. However, the use of antibiotics is highly debated for acute laryngitis. This relates to issues of effectiveness, side effects, cost, and possibility of antibiotic resistance patterns. Overall, antibiotics do not appear to be very effective in the treatment of acute laryngitis.
In severe cases of bacterial laryngitis, such as supraglottis or epiglottis, there is a higher risk of the airway becoming blocked. An urgent referral should be made to manage the airway. Treatment may involve humidification, corticosteroids, intravenous antibiotics, and nebulised adrenaline.
Fungal laryngitis can be treated with oral antifungal tablets and antifungal solutions. These are typically used for up to three weeks and treatment may need to be repeated if the fungal infection returns.
Laryngitis caused by excessive use or misuse of the voice can be managed though vocal hygiene measures.
Laryngopharyngeal reflux treatment primarily involves behavioural management and medication. Behavioural management involves aspects such as:
Anti-reflux medications may be prescribed for patients with signs of chronic laryngitis and hoarse voice. If anti-reflux treatment does not result in a decrease of symptoms, other possible causes should be examined. Over-the-counter medications for neutralizing acids (antacids) and acid suppressants (H-2 blockers) may be used. Antacids are often short-acting and may not be sufficient for treatment. Proton pump inhibitors are an effective type of medication. These should only be prescribed for a set period of time, after which the symptoms should be reviewed. Proton pump inhibitors do not work for everyone. A physical reflux barrier (e.g. Gaviscon Liquid) may be more appropriate for some. Antisecretory medications can have several side-effects.
When appropriate, anti-reflux surgery may benefit some individuals.
When treating allergic laryngitis, topical nasal steroids and immunotherapy have been found to be effective for allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines may also be helpful, but can create a dryness in the larynx. Inhaled steroids that are used for a long period can lead to problems with the larynx and voice.
Mucous membrane pemphigoid may be managed with medication (cyclophosphamide and prednisolone).
Sarcoidosis is typically treated with systemic corticosteroids. Less frequently used treatments include intralesional injections or laser resection.
Acute laryngitis may persist, but will typically resolve on its own within two weeks. Recovery is likely to be quick if the patient follows the treatment plan. In viral laryngitis, symptoms can persist for an extended amount of time, even when upper respiratory tract inflammation has been resolved.
Laryngitis that continues for more than three weeks is considered chronic. If laryngeal symptoms last for more than three weeks, a referral should be made for further examination, including direct laryngoscopy. The prognosis for chronic laryngitis varies depending on the cause of the laryngitis.