Your larynx (voice box) is a part of your respiratory tract and contains your vocal cords used for producing sound. It's located between your trachea and pharynx. It's a two-inch long, tube-shaped organ inside your neck. You use it when you talk, breathe or swallow. It's outer cartilage wall forms your "Adams apple" (the area of the front of your neck).
Your vocal cords form a "V" shape inside your larynx and are two bands of muscles. Every time you inhale, air goes through your mouth or nose, through your larynx, down your trachea and into your lungs. When you exhale, the air goes in the reverse direction. When you breathe, your vocal cords relax, allowing air to move through the area between your vocal cords without making a sound.
When you talk, your vocal cords then tighten up, moving closer together. Air from your lungs is forced between your vocal cords, making them vibrate which produces the sound of your voice. Your lips, teeth and tongue form this sound into your words.
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Inflammation of your voice box is known as laryngitis. With laryngitis, your vocal cords become irritated or inflamed. The swelling distorts the sounds produced by air passing over your vocal cords. This causes your voice to sound hoarse. Sometimes, laryngitis can make your voice almost undetectable.
It's usually acute (short-lived), but can become chronic (long-lasting). Many laryngitis cases are triggered by vocal strain or a temporary viral infection and aren't serious. However, persistent hoarseness could indicate a more serious underlying health condition.
Signs and Symptoms of an Inflamed Voice Box
Laryngitis is usually related to another condition like the flu, a cold or bronchitis. Signs of an inflamed larynx are:
You have an increased chance of getting laryngitis if you're a smoker, overuse your voice often (i.e. public speaker, singer) or are prone to the flu, colds or bronchitis.
Diagnosing Inflammation of Your Larynx
Your doctor could probably make a laryngitis diagnosis in their office with very little testing. They may ask you some questions and have you answer them with your hoarse voice to reinforce upper respiratory tract infection is causing your voice loss. The exam is often short and limited to your nose, ears and throat, as the doctor looks for potential causes of your cold-like symptoms.
They'll check your larynx function. If your throat is red and the doctor suspects strep throat, they'll order a rapid strep throat swab test. They may use an endoscopy, a slightly more invasive procedure, to make the diagnosis. Endoscopy allows your doctor to see your vocal cords in motion.
During an endoscopy, the doctor uses a flexible, skinny tube (endoscope) equipped with a light and mini camera. They’ll insert it into your mouth or nose and extend it into your throat.
If your hoarse voice becomes persistent, your doctor might take a more thorough history in an attempt to learn why your larynx remained inflamed for a long time.
Treatment Options for Inflammation of your Larynx
You have several treatment options for inflammation of your voicebox, beginning with home remedies.
Resting your voice is the best treatment for larynx inflammation. When you're not using your voice every day, it often recovers on its own. Avoid singing, talking or using your voice box. While it might seem like whispering is a gentler alternative to normal volume speaking, it actually tightly stretches your vocal cords, hampering their recovery. So, you should avoid whispering.
Other home remedies are:
Using ibuprofen like Motrin or acetaminophen like paracetamol to control the pain
Avoiding decongestants since they dry the throat out
Drinking plenty of fluids
Avoiding inhalation of irritants like second-hand smoke or smoking
Breathing moist air
Some medications your doctor may prescribe include:
Antibiotics: Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics if your laryngitis is caused by a bacterial infection. But, according to a review, the benefits of prescribing antibiotics for laryngitis don't outweigh the risks.
Corticosteroids: Your doctor might prescribe these to reduce the inflammation of your vocal cords if your case is urgent or severe. This could apply if you use your voice professionally such as being a public speaker or singer.
You may need to make some lifestyle changes. For instance, if you're a singer and the doctor believes this is causing your laryngitis, you might need to alter your singing technique. They may recommend speech training in such cases. It may also help if you avoid:
Healthy practices can help prevent chronic laryngitis. Avoiding contact with others who have a cold or the flu and washing your hands will limit your chances of catching a virus. Take frequent voice breaks if you use your voice excessively. Talk to your physician about other ways to reduce your possibility of inflammation.
Also, try to avoid working in locations that expose you to harmful chemicals constantly. If you smoke, you should quit to lower your risk of inflammation. Remember to avoid excessive alcohol intake, and ask your doctor about other ways you can prevent the occurrence of laryngitis.
You could require surgery if your vocal cords have been damaged badly due to nodule or polyp growth.
Chronic laryngitis might require more ongoing, extensive treatment. The reason behind the inflammation will determine this. If another condition causes your laryngitis, like sinusitis or acid reflux, then treatment for these linked conditions could also help treat symptoms of laryngitis.
CONTACT HOUSTON ENT & ALLERGY SERVICES VOICE AND SWALLOWING CENTER CENTER
If you're experiencing signs and symptoms of inflammation of your voicebox, contact Houston ENT Clinic to set up an appointment. We now have a new Voice and Swallowing Center at our Southwest Houston ENT office and Memorial City ENT office. Dr. Michael Underbrink, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S. leads the center. The Voice and Swallowing Center offers diagnostic and treatment services for many voice, swallowing, and airway disorders, including hoarseness, laryngitis and inflammation of the larynx.