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Hoarse voice: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hoarse voice

A voice is termed as hoarse when its quality becomes harsh, scratchy and rough. This condition results from some problem in the vocal cords, which are placed in the larynx (voice box). Laryngitis, which is a common respiratory condition characterized by inflammation of the inner membrane of the larynx, is considered one of the commonest cause of hoarse voice.

Hoarse voice: Incidence, age and sex

A hoarse voice may be encountered in any age group. Both children and adults are equally susceptible. It is found in equal frequency in men and women. Certain individuals like teachers, lawyers, stage actors, are more prone to get afflicted with hoarseness of voice since these occupations demand increased and continuous use of voice.

Signs and symptoms of hoarse voice: Diagnosis

The hoarseness of the voice results is a symptom in itself, characterised by rough and scratchy quality of voice. Some individuals may even experience difficulty in producing sound and may be unable to speak for a short period of time. Some individuals may also complain of a scratchy sensation in the throat. Other associated features may include fever, fatigue, sore throat, cough and difficulty in swallowing, depending upon the source of problem.

Clinical examination of the throat (laryngoscopy) may reveal inflamed and swollen vocal cords, if the cause of the problem is local. However, further evaluation is required if the hoarseness of voice persists for long periods of time.

Causes and prevention of hoarse voice

There are several causes of a hoarse voice, of which inflammation or viral infection of larynx is commonly encountered. It can also be caused by long term misuse of the voice like shouting, speaking in whispers or low pitch voice. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease may result in corrosion of the vocal cords by gastric juices, thereby resulting in increased chances of a hoarse voice. Irritation by atmospheric irritants, thyroid problems or sinusitis may also damage the vocal cords, leading to hoarseness of voice. Serious medical conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s disease or laryngeal cancer are also known to cause hoarseness of voice.

Hoarseness of the voice can be prevented by avoiding misuse of the voice which is caused by shouting and persistent coughing. Furthermore, smoking cessation and avoidance of exposure to toxic allergens are also helpful to a certain extent.

Hoarse voice: Complications

The complications of hoarse voice depend upon the underlying cause. In cases of affliction of the vocal cords, they may get swollen, thereby narrowing down the air passage and subsequently obstructing breathing.

Hoarse voice: Treatment

The first step in the management of hoarseness of voice is the evaluation of the underlying cause, since further treatment depends upon the causative condition. For example, hoarseness due to laryngitis may require a short course of antibiotics along with decongestants and humidifier. Hoarseness of the voice due to gastro-oesophageal reflux disease may be prescribed appropriate antacid medications to avoid gastric juice associated trauma of the vocal cords. However, it is essential to maintain adequate voice rest which helps in improving the condition.