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- Upper respiratory tract infection—often caused by a virus, like a cold
- Bacterial or fungal infections—much less common
- Irritation caused by voice overuse—from yelling, singing, and speaking loudly for extended periods of time
- Airborne irritants—such as cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, and mold
- Laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD)—stomach acid rises up in the throat and irritates the vocal cords
- Noncancerous growths on the focal cords
- Functional dysphonia—abnormal use of the vocal mechanisms despite normal anatomy
- Laryngeal papilloma—growths on the larynx caused by HPV infection
- Muscle tension dysphonia—a voice disorder caused by excessive or unequal tension while speaking
- Reinkes edema—an accumulation of fluid in the vocal cords, usually associated with smoking
- Spasmodic dysphonia—a condition resulting in irregular voice breaks
- Vocal cord paralysis—weakness or immobility of the vocal cords
- Side effects from inhaled medications used for asthma
- Hoarseness (raspiness, breathiness, and strain) or loss of voice
- Changes in volume (loudness) or in pitch (how high or low the voice is)
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness that has no obvious cause or has lasted longer than 2-3 weeks
Hoarseness with difficulty swallowing or breathing, coughing up blood, a lump in the neck, or throat pain out of proportion to that usually seen with the common cold
- For some of these symptoms, emergency medical evaluation is indicated. If you have any questions about how quickly to seek care, call your doctor or a local emergency facility.
- Complete loss of voice or severe change in voice lasting longer than a few days
- Rest your voice.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid smoking.
- Take nonprescription pain relievers (like acetaminophen, ibuprofen) as needed.
- Try steam inhalation.
Treating the Underlying Illness
- Voice education
- Healthy use of the voice
- Instruction in proper voice technique and use of the breathing muscles
- If you smoke, quit.
- Avoid secondhand smoke.
- Avoid agents that can dehydrate the body, such as alcohol and caffeine.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Humidify your home.
- Avoid acidic or spicy foods if you are prone to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Try not to use your voice too loudly or for too long.
- Seek professional voice training.
- Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse.
Family Doctor http://familydoctor.org
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Acute laryngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated June 24, 2011. Accessed January 3, 2013.
Common problems that can affect your voice. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/commonvoiceproblems.cfm. Accessed January 3, 2013.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 00/10/2013 -