Many patients may develop a throat irritation or speech problem without knowing what causes laryngitis. The condition is a swelling of the larynx, or voice box, and can last for both short term and long term durations. Laryngitis is considered chronic if the condition persists for a period of two weeks or longer.
Laryngitis can develop from a handful of causes. Some potential causes are irritation from allergens such as smoke and excessive yelling or a continued overuse of the larynx. In addition, colds or flus may be the underlying cause. However, the most frequent source of laryngitis is from gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux. Occurrences of the condition that come from this particular source are known as reflux laryngitis. Although these are the most common sources, chronic laryngitis may also be caused by sores, nerve damage, or polyps located on the vocal chords inside the larynx.
Laryngitis symptoms are usually manifested in the form of speech impediments such as hoarseness or a raspy voice. In addition, the condition may include reactions like throat irritation, difficulty with swallowing, or coughing. If these laryngitis symptoms are accompanied in patients by more serious reactions including drooling, difficulty breathing, or pronounced pain, they may indicate a more serious condition such as epiglottitis is present. Epiglottis is a dangerous condition and requires immediate medical intervention.
In most cases laryngitis treatment is very simple. If the condition was caused by allergens, then avoidance of the allergen should be enough to facilitate the return of a patient’s normal speaking voice. With other sources, speaking should be kept to a minimum and moisture should be added to the air utilizing devices such as a humidifier or vaporizer. In addition, constant oral fluid intake may speed recovery time. For chronic sufferers, the way a patient speaks or sings may be causing the issue. In these cases speech training could be needed to correct the problem. If the vocal chords have been damaged, surgery may be recommended as part of the laryngitis treatment.
While laryngitis does not have many complications itself, the condition can be a complication of tonsillitis. Usually found in younger children, it the previously mentioned remedies are not enough to cure a patient’s laryngitis, tonsillitis may be the cause. The viral or bacterial infection may have spread from the tonsils to the vocal chords and larynx. In these cases particular care should be taken as there are several potentially dangerous complications from tonsillitis. The primary complication that can cause concern is rheumatic fever. This fever is caused by a specific bacterial strain and is often accompanied by rheumatic heart disease. If a patient with laryngitis experiences high fevers, breathing or swallowing difficulties, or is coughing up yellow or brown sputum, a caregiver should be contacted as these cases will need to be evaluated by a local physician. Parents with small children should learn the difference between what causes laryngitis and tonsillitis so a misdiagnosis can be avoided.