What Causes Laryngitis?

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Vocal Cord Inflammation

From a purely anatomical perspective, what causes laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal cords. It’s very easy for a respiratory infection that causes a lot of mucus drainage or coughing to result in inflammation of the larynx. It can also happen due to behavior. If people spend too much time yelling or smoking cigarettes, their vocal cords may become inflamed as a result. Like most other kinds of inflammation, this leads to swelling, and swollen vocal cords aren’t as effective in vibrating to produce a person’s voice. The voice may become hoarse, raspy, or it might even be almost totally inaudible.

Serious Causes

Figuring out what causes laryngitis in each particular case may be tough because there are so many different possibilities, but luckily, most of them aren’t that serious. There are, however, a few possibilities that may cause much more concern. A disorder called croup and another called epiglottitis can both be potentially deadly, and they normally appear in younger children. Both of these have the potential to create the outward symptoms of laryngitis, but they can also lead to a closing of the respiratory passageway. Because of these dangers, cases of laryngitis in young children should generally be treated with more caution.

Another possible cause of laryngitis that can be dangerous is laryngeal cancer. This may present symptoms very similar to a normal case of laryngitis, but it won’t go away even after treatment. When doctors determine this is what causes laryngitis in a particular case, the treatments may involve processes like chemotherapy, and recovery can be quite difficult.

Normal Recovery

Once doctors discover what causes laryngitis, they have to treat it, but usually that’s rather simple. In most cases, the vocal cord inflammation will gradually fade along with the cause. So, if the inflammation is coming from a cold, the vocal cords may be inflamed for a while after the person recovers, but they will tend to get better within a week or so.

During the recovery process, it is considered important to always rest the voice. Most experts agree that rest will allow the vocal cord inflammation to subside more rapidly. Some people also use a humidifier because many find that moisture helps soothe their throats, and it may aid in the recovery process to some extent.

Sometimes medicines that help get rid of symptoms may help people in dealing with laryngitis. For example, if mucus drainage is the cause, then a decongestant might help reduce symptoms. If a cough is what causes laryngitis in your case, you might benefit from a cough suppressant. It’s generally important to remember that these sorts of medicines usually don’t help in ultimately getting rid of any underlying illness, and only mask symptoms. They might help with your laryngitis if the symptoms are responsible for your vocal cord inflammation, but they aren’t going usually going to actually cure you.


Pub Med. Laryngitis

Pub Med. Epiglottitis

Pub Med. Croup

Physicians’ Desk Reference. Laryngitis