Structural Changes in Vocal Fold : Laryngitis


Acute and Chronic

The term laryngitis is used to describe an inflammation (swelling) of the vocal fold mucosa (cover) causing mild to severe dysphonia (hoarseness) with lowered pitch and intermittent breaks in voice. In severe cases, aphonia (complete loss of voice) may result. The cause of acute laryngitis is unknown, but is usually associated with upper respiratory viruses and bacterial infections. The most effective treatments for acute laryngitis include external and internal hydration, antibiotics if prescribed, and rest. Occasionally, a cough suppressant may be prescribed to limit additional damage to the vocal folds. Because many patients will not feel pain with repeated coughing, they may unknowingly injure their voices further because of they are not aware of the potential vocal fold damage from severe or prolonged coughing.

Chronic (ongoing) laryngitis is a condition of long standing laryngeal mucosa inflammation, viscous (thick, sticky) mucus, and tissue lining thickness not associated with infection. Voice quality can range from mild to severely dysphonic depending upon the severity of the mucosa and epithelial change. Other symptoms include laryngeal fatigue (tired voice) and non-productive coughing and throat clearing. The causes of chronic laryngitis include (but are not limited to): repeated episodes of acute laryngitis, vocal misuse and abuse, smoking, poor hydration, air pollutants, airborne allergies, the use of dehydrating medications, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and repeated vomiting associated with bulimia. The typical treatment for chronic laryngitis is to identify and eliminate potential causative factors. Voice therapy is often very useful in identifying specific reasons for the prolonged hoarseness and helping patients develop strategies to modify these harmful elements.

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