Laryngitis – symptoms, causes and other risk factors


Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx – the vocal box, from infection, irritation or overuse. Inside the larynx there are our vocal cords, 2 folds of mucous membrane which are covering cartilage and muscle. Normally, our vocal cords open and close smoothly and they are forming sounds through their vibration and movement. When we have laryngitis, then our vocal cords become irritated or inflamed. This swelling is causing distortion of the sounds which are produced by air which is passing over them. As a result of this state, our voice sound hoarse. Also there are some cases of laryngitis in which our voice can become almost undetectable. This condition can be acute (short – lived) or chronic (long – lasting). In the most cases laryngitis is triggered by vocal strain or a temporary viral infection and in the most cases they are not serious. If you suffer from persistent hoarseness, then this can mean you may have some serious underlying medical condition. [1]

Symptoms of laryngitis

Laryngitis symptoms, in the most cases, last less than a couple of weeks and they are caused by some minor cause such as virus. There are less often cases, when the laryngitis is caused by some serious condition or condition which last long time. Here are the signs and symptoms of laryngitis:

  • Dry cough
  • Dry throat
  • A constant need to clear your throat
  • Sore throat
  • Tickling sensation and rawness of your throat
  • Weak voice or voice loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Mild fever
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Irritating cough

In the most cases, laryngitis can be treated at home with self – care steps such as drinking plenty of fluid or resting your voice. Strenuous use of the vocal during an episode of acute laryngitis can damage the vocal cords. If your laryngitis symptoms last more than two weeks, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Laryngitis is also linked to other illnesses such as tonsillitis, throat infection, flu or cold so you can have other symptoms such as:

  • Feeling tired and achy
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Runny nose
  • Swollen glands
  • A headache

LaryngitisCauses of laryngitis

In the most cases laryngitis is temporary and it improves after the underlying cause gets better. Here are the causes of acute laryngitis:

  • Bacterial infections such as diphtheria, although this is rare, in large part due to increasing rates of vaccination [2]
  • Fungal infections such as aspergillosis or thrush (candidiasis) [3]
  • Vocal strain, caused by yelling or overusing your voice [1]
  • Viral infections similar to those that cause a cold [4]

Chronic laryngitis: Chronic laryngitis is a laryngitis that lasts longer than 3 weeks. It is caused by exposure to irritants over time. This type of laryngitis can cause vocal cord strain and growths or injuries on the vocal cords (nodules or polyps). These injuries can be caused by:

  • Smoking [5]
  • Habitual overuse of your voice (such as with singers or cheerleaders) [1]
  • Excessive alcohol use [6]
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Acid reflux, also called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) [7]
  • Inhaled irritants, such as chemical fumes, allergens or smoke [5]

Also there are less common causes of chronic laryngitis and they are including:

  • Infections with certain parasites
  • Bacterial or fungal infections

There are other causes of chronic hoarseness and they are including:

  • Bowing of the vocal cords in old age
  • Vocal cord paralysis. This condition can result from injury, stroke, a lung tumor or other health conditions
  • Cancer

Risk factors: Here are the risk factors of laryngitis:

  • Overusing your voice: By speaking too much, speaking too loudly, shouting or singing [1]
  • Exposure to irritating substances: These irritating substances are including cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol intake, stomach acid or workplace chemicals [5,6]
  • Having a respiratory infection: Such as a cold, bronchitis or sinusitis [2,3,4]
  • Weakened immune system: People who have weakened immune system which is caused by conditions such as steroid medication, chemotherapy or HIV, are having increased chances of getting fungal laryngitis

Complications: There are some cases in which laryngitis can be caused by infection and this infection can spread to other parts of your respiratory tract.


[1] Rush University Medical Center. Letting every voice be heard: Improper use of vocal cords can cause voice loss. Science Daily. 2016. Retrieved from

[2] Thomas CM, Jette ME, Clary MS. Factors associated with infectious laryngitis: A retrospective review of 15 cases. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology. 2017;126(5):388–95.

[3] Swain SK, Sahu M, Debta P. Primary fungal laryngitis: An overlooked clinical entity. Apollo Medicine. 2019;16(1):11-5.

[4] Jaworek AJ, Earasi K, Lyons KM, et 2007 al. Acute infectious laryngitis:
A case series. ENT – Ear, Nose & Throat Journal. 2018;97(9):306-13.

[5] American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. Smokers see decline in ability to smell, rise in laryngitis, and upper airway issues. Science Daily. 2008. Retrieved from

[6] Moreira TC, Gadenz C, Figueiro LR, et al. Substance use, voice changes and quality of life in licit and illicit drug users. Revista CEFAC. 2015;17(2).

[7] Fandiño LHJ, Tarazona NM, Diaz JAO. Reflux laryngitis: an Otolaryngologist’s perspective. Revista Colombiana de Gastroenterologia. 2011;26(3).


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