What is chronic laryngitis?
Laryngitis may be short-lived (acute), or last for a longer time. Chronic laryngitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the larynx (voice box) which persists more than three weeks. Laryngitis may have infectious or non-infectious causes. It can affect people of every age and gender but is more common in men of middle age.
The main symptom of chronic laryngitis is vocal hoarseness, which occurs due to inflammation of the vocal cords in the throat. When the vocal cords are inflamed, this distorts the sounds made when air passes over them, in speech, resulting in hoarseness of voice.
Typical symptoms of long-lasting laryngitis include vocal hoarseness, sore throat, a cough, and swallowing problems.
Laryngeal symptoms such as cough, sore throat and hoarse voice are frequently caused by prolonged irritation of the larynx and vocal cords. If laryngitis persists for weeks or months, this can result in vocal cord strain and injuries and growths or polyps developing on the vocal cords.
Non-infectious causes of persistent laryngitis can include overuse of the voice; which puts a strain on the larynx; overuse of alcohol, gastric reflux, smoking or cancer. Bacterial infections rarely cause chronic laryngitis.
Because laryngitis is usually acute, meaning that it goes away on its own after around two weeks, it is wise to seek medical attention if symptoms, including hoarseness of the voice due to inflamed vocal cords, sore throat and/or cough, remain present after this time. The diagnosis of persistent laryngitis is usually made by assessing the symptoms and examining the throat.
Treatment for long-lasting laryngitis depends on the source of the issue. If the laryngitis is caused by gastric reflux, that underlying condition should be treated. If the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic medications are normally taken.
Aside from addressing the root cause with appropriate medications and/or therapies, treatment for persistent laryngitis mainly involves resting the voice and soothing the throat, to give the larynx and vocal cords a chance to heal. Self-care remedies that may be helpful include:
- Giving up tobacco products, especially smoking, which can dry out the throat and vocal cords.
- Choosing non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages, which can dehydrate the body, aggravating laryngeal symptoms.
- Drinking plenty of water, to thin mucus in the throat, so that it clears easily. This decreases congestion and helps minimise the need to cough.
- Using natural products that fight infection like ginger and turmeric extracts. These can be added to hot drinks, can reduce the need to cough and help fight infection.
- Keeping clean by using antibacterial handwashes and wipes at regular intervals throughout the day, particularly after coughing. This will also help prevent the transmission of laryngeal infection to others.
- Avoiding breathing in fumes from smoke or household chemicals, which can cause vocal cord irritation.
Prevention can be achieved by treatment of a gastric reflux condition, avoidance of smoking and smoke exposure, and moderate use of the voice.
Other names for chronic laryngitis
- Infectious or allergic chronic laryngitis
- Reflux laryngitis
- Chronic inflammation of the larynx