What is the usual cause of laryngitis?
The voice box (larynx) joins the back of the throat to the windpipe (trachea). The vocal cords are part of the larynx and are needed for speech. Laryngitis means inflammation of the larynx. It is most often due to infection with a germ. The most common germ causing laryngitis is a virus (viral laryngitis). Other causes are much less common.
Other causes of laryngitis and hoarseness
As well as being caused by a virus, laryngitis can be caused by other germs, such as bacteria. Laryngitis may also be caused by a long period of screaming, yelling or singing very loudly. This causes your vocal cords to bang together which can make them inflamed.
If laryngitis doesn't settle after three weeks, it is called chronic laryngitis. Causes for this include:
- Less common infections (for example, thrush).
- Overuse of your voice. This is particularly common in people who use their voice in their jobs - for example, teachers, professional singers, actors.
- Allergies - for example, hay fever, allergic rhinitis, asthma.
- Reflux of acid from the stomach. Acid can travel up from the stomach and cause irritation of the throat or voice box (larynx).
- Cigarette smoke.
- Trauma or injury to your neck.
- Other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- Certain medicines - for example:
A change in your voice which lasts for more than three weeks always needs checking out by your doctor.
Further reading and references
Reveiz L, Cardona AF; Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 283:CD004783. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004783.pub4.
Wood JM, Athanasiadis T, Allen J; Laryngitis. BMJ. 2014 Oct 9349:g5827. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g5827.
Feierabend RH, Shahram MN; Hoarseness in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Aug 1580(4):363-70.
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