Laryngitis is inflammation in and around the mucus membranes of the larynx or voice box. The irritated larynx becomes swollen and painful, leading to a sore throat, hoarse voice and even a complete loss of voice. Most cases of laryngitis are caused by an infection.
Some of the main causes of laryngitis are described below.
- The common cold and influenza are the most common causes of laryngitis. Less often, the condition is caused by fungal infections such as candidiasis or bacterial infections such as diphtheria. When infection is the cause of laryngitis, the condition is referred to as infectious laryngitis. The fungal form is more likely to occur in people with weakened immune systems such as HIV patients or those on steroid medication.
- Laryngitis can also be caused by over straining the voice through shouting or singing loudly, for example. Straining the voice causes rapid vibration of the vocal cords, which can damage their surface and cause them to become inflamed. Laryngitis caused by this is known of as mechanical laryngitis. Mechanical laryngitis may also occur if there is a direct blow to the throat or as a result of prolonged coughing or frequent clearing of the throat.
- Other causes of laryngitis include excessive smoking and alcohol intake, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and allergy to dust, fumes or toxins.
The symptoms of laryngitis are described below:
- Hoarse voice
- Complete voice loss and difficulty speaking
- Sore throat
- Difficulty eating
- Mild fever with chills, muscle pain and body ache
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Headache, swollen neck glands and body ache in cases caused by flu or the common cold.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc