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Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx and causes pain and swelling in the throat. In most cases, the condition will usually go away within 1 to 2 weeks.
Most commonly, laryngitis is caused by a virus, such as flu, or a cold. If a person frequently strains their voice, for example, through singing, this can also cause laryngitis, as can allergies, smoking and high volumes of alcohol.
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There are two main types of laryngitis – acute and chronic. These types are determined by how long the inflammation actually lasts.
Acute laryngitis doesn’t last very long and can occur very quickly with the symptoms dispersing once the irritant has gone away. Typically, acute laryngitis is caused by an infection in the respiratory tract from a virus, or bacteria. Additionally, inhaling smoke in an enclosed environment, or inhaling heated fumes, are other causes. Although it’s not known to be as common, it is possible that exposure to highly concentrated air pollutants and blunt, or penetrative trauma to the larynx, can also cause a person to develop laryngitis.
Dependant on the underlying reasons, a healthcare professional may need to prescribe medication, such as antibiotics, if the inflammation is caused by bacteria.
Most cases of acute laryngitis clear up over time by themselves. Still, items such as lozenges, paracetamol and other over-the-counter treatment are available to help manage the symptoms.
Chronic laryngitis occurs when exposure to the irritant is happening over an extended, or prolonged period. Laryngitis therefore remains whilst someone is still exposed to that irritant.
It’s likely that this type of laryngitis will only be discovered if symptoms have lasted beyond 14 days. Causes of this type of laryngitis include allergies, tobacco smoke, chronic coughing, voice misuse, or abuse, and laryngopharyngeal reflux. Chronic laryngitis tends to last longer than acute laryngitis.
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The symptoms of laryngitis, whether acute, or chronic, are relatively similar. Some symptoms may be more prevalent in certain individuals than in others.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Hoarse voice
- Irritating cough
- Sore throat
- Mild fever
- Difficulty speaking
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Difficulty swallowing.
Some symptoms can last longer than others, for instance, hoarseness and speaking difficulties usually get worse each day, as the illness progresses.
It is likely that these symptoms will stay, as others improve, or go away completely. In some cases, chronic laryngitis can lead to vocal polyps and cysts. In this instance, a healthcare professional may deem it necessary to perform surgery to treat any damage to the vocal cords.
If symptoms last over 14 days, it is advised a person consults a healthcare professional.
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For many people, developing acute laryngitis will have little impact on their life, as once the illness has passed, they can return to normality.
Whilst a person is dealing with the illness, there are measures which can be taken to relieve symptoms and speed up the healing process, such as keeping hydrated, refraining from smoking, and not straining the vocal cords.
If a person is diagnosed with chronic laryngitis and needs to see a doctor, it may be necessary for the doctor to enquire about lifestyle to ascertain whether there are elements which are contributing to the condition.
In some cases, prescribing medication for the underlying cause of laryngitis, such as an antihistamine for allergies, can be of help.
There are many ways to help reduce the risk of developing laryngitis, such as having the annual flu vaccine, not smoking, and not consuming more than the recommended amount of alcohol per week. Additionally, sleeping with pillows to raise a person’s head can stop acid reflux which tends to affect the larynx during the night.
A Contoured Orthopaedic Pillow could help raise your head, or a Dense Foam Orthopaedic Pillow.
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Support can be offered by many different types of health professionals, including GP practices and/or pharmacies.
Chronic laryngitis predominantly requires treating the underlying cause.
For further information, please visit the NHS website via this link.
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Medical terms are often baffling and difficult to fully understand. To help, we have listed some frequently used terms below.
Acute – is the medical term to describe something as severe, but not long-lasting
Chronic – is used to describe a medical condition which is long-lasting, or frequently recurring
Larynx – is more commonly known as the voice box and is a hollow muscular organ which forms an air passage to the lungs holding the vocal cords
Polyps – are typically noncancerous and are small growths that stick out from a mucous membrane