Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, an important organ for breathing and voice production. The larynx is located in the neck and it protects the trachea and participates in voice production. The organ contains vocal cords, essential tools of phonation. In laryngitis the mucous membrane of the larynx is inflamed, edematous and red. The inflammation features with hoarse voice and some patients may completely lose their voice. The problem with voice originates from the irritation of the vocal cords.
Laryngitis can be classified into acute and chronic. Acute laryngitis lasts for a few days while chronic form of the disease may linger for 3 weeks or even more.
Causes and Symptoms of Laryngitis
There are many causes of laryngitis. The inflammation of the superficial layer of the larynx can be caused by infective agents such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. Furthermore, laryngitis develops as a consequence of acid reflux disease and it may be associated with overuse of the vocal cords (i.e. singers). Apart from the mentioned laryngitis can occur due to excessive coughing, smoking and alcohol consumptions. It is also common for allergies and may develop as a side effect of inhaled corticosteroids for asthma treatment.
Apart from hoarseness, patients suffering from laryngitis may also complain about dry and sore throat, coughing, difficulty swallowing and fever. The regional lymph nodes may be swollen and in severe inflammation there may also be breathing difficulties. In many cases the production of saliva is increased.
Is Laryngitis Contagious?
Laryngitis may or may not be contagious which generally depends on the underlying cause of inflammation. In case of inflammation caused by infective agents (bacteria, viruses or fungi) laryngitis is infectious and can be transmitted from one person to another. In other cases (acid reflux disease, overuse of vocal cords etc) the inflammation only affects one patient and cannot be transmitted to other people.
Treatment for Laryngitis
Treatment for laryngitis depends on the underlying cause of inflammation. Infections caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics, those associated with fungi are treated with anti-fungal medications while viral infections generally subside due to symptomatic treatment. Laryngitis caused by acid reflux disease is treated with medications which control production of stomach acid. Stress and overuse of vocal cords (which is typical for singers, orators etc) at some point cause laryngitis. In this case patients are advised to have plenty of vocal rest and try not to speak until the vocal cords heal completely.
Patients suffering from laryngitis must quit smoking and those whose symptoms are induced by allergy are due to take specific anti allergic medications and try to stay away from the potential allergen in order to prevent recurrence of the symptoms.