Laryngitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
Laryngitis is a common respiratory condition characterized by the inflammation of the inner membrane of the larynx (voice box). Larynx is located in the throat and consists of vocal cords, which are responsible for the production of voice. Laryngitis can either be short lived or even long-standing.
Laryngitis: Incidence, age and sex
Laryngitis can 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 laryngitis since these occupations demand increased and continuous use of their voice.
Signs and symptoms of laryngitis: Diagnosis
The clinical features of laryngitis arise as a result of inflammatory swelling of vocal cords which leads to hoarseness of voice. Sometimes this hoarseness may be severe enough to cause temporary loss of voice. Some individuals may also complain of a scratchy sensation in the throat. Other associated features include fever, fatigue, sore throat, cough and difficulty in swallowing. The predominant symptom of laryngitis in adults is hoarseness of voice, whereas children usually present with persistent cough. Laryngitis in infants is a serious condition which may progress to the obstruction of the airways, causing impaired breathing.
A detailed history and physical examination of the throat (laryngoscopy) by a specialist is sufficient to diagnose the condition. Investigations are not needed to establish the diagnosis which is more or less based on clinical acumen of the specialist.
Causes and prevention of laryngitis
There are several causes of laryngitis, of which viral infection is the commonest. Bacterial laryngitis is the second most common cause of infectious laryngitis. Laryngitis can also result from exposure to allergens like pollen, dust, smoke and other irritants. In people with reflux problems, the gastric juices may corrode the tissue lining of vocal cords, thus leading to their inflammation. Laryngitis may also be associated with upper respiratory tract infections in adults and croup or the epiglottitis in children.
Some instances of laryngitis can be prevented by avoiding misuse of voice which is caused by shouting and persistent coughing. Moreover, avoiding close contact with infected individuals may also help in preventing further spread of infectious laryngitis. Furthermore, smoking cessation and avoidance of exposure to toxic allergens are also helpful.
The complications of laryngitis are rare but serious. Repeated episodes of laryngitis coupled with inadequate treatment can result in loss of voice. Moreover inflamed, swollen vocal cords may narrow down the air passage and obstruct breathing. This is an emergency condition usually seen in infants but may also occur in adults.
Conservative and supportive measures play a significant role in management of laryngitis. The first and foremost step is adequate voice rest which helps in improving the condition. Other steps like use of humidifiers, ingestion of decongestants and analgesics may also provide some relief. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics if bacterial laryngitis is suspected. Individuals having gastric acid reflux problem are prescribed appropriate antacid medications to avoid gastric juice-associated trauma of the vocal cords. Laryngitis usually resolves completely without any residual effect.