Laryngitis

Edematous Laryngitis

What is Laryngitis?

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx (voice box). It is characterized by a hoarse raspy voice or complete absence of sound when attempting to speak. Laryngitis may last only a few days (acute), or persist over a long period (chronic). Laryngitis can occur in any age group and at any time of the year. Acute laryngitis can be caused by a number of different viruses including those associated with influenza and the common cold. It can also be caused by the spread of bacterial infections from nose or throat, or by an allergy to a drug, pollen, or other substance. Chronic laryngitis may be caused by strain (singing, screaming) or overuse of the voice. Other causes include violent coughing, irritation from smoke, alcohol, or fumes, or damage that occurred during surgery.

How is it diagnosed?

IMPORTANT NOTICE

  • You or a family member has hoarseness or other symptoms of laryngitis that last longer than 2 weeks. This may be an early sign of cancer.
  • You feel very ill, have a high fever or breathing difficulty. If these symptoms develop in a child, call immediately.

History: Symptoms may include hoarseness or loss of voice, pain when clearing the throat or swallowing, and a dry, irritated cough. When caused by an infection, fever and malaise (general sick feeling) may also be present.

Physical exam: The larynx may be inspected (indirect laryngoscopy) using a mirror held against the back roof of the mouth (palate). This exam may reveal redness and swelling of the larynx. Lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen and tender. Although lung sounds are clear, wheezing or stridor can occasionally be heard over the neck in the area of the larynx.

Tests are not required for the diagnosis of laryngitis.

However, a throat culture may be taken to identify organisms responsible for a bacterial infection. If laryngitis persists for several weeks, diagnostic tests may be required to rule out other diagnoses. A viewing instrument (laryngoscope) may be passed down the throat in order to view the larynx directly (direct laryngoscopy) or to take a biopsy (sample of tissue removed for microscopic analysis).

How is Laryngitis treated?

Treatment for laryngitis is generally symptomatic. It includes rest, fluids, humidifiers to keep the throat lining moist, and medication to relieve pain (analgesics) and reduce fever (antipyretic). Smoking and alcohol should be avoided. The individual should refrain from using the voice as much as possible. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the infection is caused by bacteria.

Reflux Laryngitis is treated with a proton-pump inhibitor (prilosec, nexium, protonix, etc) medication.

Medications

Information Brand Generic Label Rating
Nexium Nexium Esomeprazole On-Label

Prevacid (Lansoprazole), Prilosec (Omeprazole), Pepcid (Famotidine), Protonix (Pantoprazole), Zantac (Ranitidine), Aciphex (Rabeprazole)

What might complicate it?

Laryngitis may be a symptom of bronchitis, sinusitis, a tumor or cancer of the larynx, or tuberculosis. Complications may stem from these related conditions.

Predicted outcome

Uncomplicated laryngitis usually results in full recovery within a short period.

Alternatives

Hoarseness, the primary diagnostic symptom of laryngitis, may also indicate a tumor or polyps on the vocal chords, paralysis of a vocal chord, or other vocal chord dysfunction. Laryngitis may also be a symptom of several acute upper and lower respiratory diseases such as measles, influenza, nasopharyngitis, bronchitis, and croup.

Appropriate specialists

Internist and otolaryngologist.

Last updated 29 January 2012


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