In laryngitis laryngeal mucosa and vocal cords are inflamed. This often happens with a respiratory infection – such as a cold – or when the larynx is heavily irritated. Main symptoms of laryngitis is hoarseness. It can last for several weeks – then it becomes chronic. Read here how to get a laryngitis, how to recognize them and how to treat them.
Quick Overview: Laryngitis
Causes: Infection with viruses or bacteria, stressed vocal cords, irritants in the air, allergies, chronic heartburn (reflux), crooked nasal septum, sinusitis,
symptoms: Hoarseness, voicelessness, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, irritable cough, foreign body sensation in throat, frequent hawking
Therapy: Protection of the voice, abstinence from spicy or hot food, smoking, alcohol, inhalation, antibiotics only in case of bacterial infection
Diagnosis: Based on typical symptoms, via the laryngoscope by the ear, nose and throat doctor, laboratory determination of the pathogens.
Forecast: Acute form usually heals quickly on its own, chronic can always return, may change the mucous membranes in the form of polyps, increase or dilution of the mucous glands.
A laryngitis can have several causes:
Viruses and bacteria
Most of the reason is a respiratory tract infection with viruses. Possible pathogens are, for example, parainfluenza and influenza viruses (influenza viruses), rhino (common cold viruses) and adenoviruses. In addition, bacteria can subsequently colonize on the attacked mucous membranes, especially streptococci.
Heavily used vocal cords
People like singers or teachers who stress their voice more often get laryngitis. The vocal tract is then irritated and overwhelmed.
Lovely breathing air
Even people who inhale very often dry air, dust, chemical vapors or irritating pollutants such as cigarette smoke, quickly get a laryngitis.
Other diseases can cause laryngitis. For example, anyone who has a chronically congested nose due to allergies almost only breathes through the mouth, thus favoring throat and laryngitis. This also applies to chronic sinusitis.
Crooked nasal septum
Even a bent nasal septum makes breathing difficult. It can therefore also promote laryngitis.
Chronic heartburn (reflux disease)
In people with a reflux disease, gastric juice gets into the esophagus again and again – this can cause the larynx to catch fire.
Is laryngitis inflammatory?
If an infection with viruses and / or bacteria is the cause of laryngitis, it can be quite contagious. Influenza viruses, for example, spread by being ejected in the form of tiny droplets when talking or coughing and inhaled by other people.
Anyone who is infected, but can also get only a cold or a flu, without these spread to the larynx. How strong and how long a laryngitis is contagious varies depending on the pathogen.
Physicians differentiate depending on the duration of two forms of laryngitis:
The acute laryngitis is usually triggered by an infection with viruses or bacteria. Those affected usually feel sick for a few days, have a sore throat, cough and are above all hoarse – sometimes the voice does not work at all anymore. Usually the acute laryngitis heals without consequences.
Chronic laryngitis lasts for more than three weeks. It can develop from untreated acute laryngitis, but also when the larynx and vocal cords are permanently stressed. Sometimes other diseases (such as gastric reflux disease) cause chronic laryngitis.
In addition to the normal laryngitis, two other special forms are possible, which play a role especially in children:
Pseudo Krupp (Krupp syndrome)
Krupp syndrome is another name for acute stenosing laryngotracheitis. To distinguish them from the “real” Krupp disease, doctors often refer to them as pseudo-Krupp. This disease mainly occurs in children between six months and three years.
The Krupp syndrome manifests itself mainly in a hoarse voice, a barking cough and morbid sounds when inhaling (inspiratory stridor). In addition to laryngitis, the mucous membrane of the affected children is so swollen in the area of the larynx and trachea that the airways are narrowed and the throat feels tight. A strong swelling may cause respiratory distress in the affected child.
Another, now rare disease is the so-called epiglottitis. Mostly it affects children between the ages of two and six years. This is a special type of laryngitis, in which especially the epiglottis, which sits at the “entrance” of the larynx, is inflamed.
In epiglottitis, the epiglottis and larynx strongly swell. The child has a high fever, heavy dysphagia, shortness of breath and speaks “kloßig”. An epiglottitis is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention!
The main symptom of laryngitis is hoarseness: The voice is less loadable, sounds scratchy changed (dysphonia) or precipitates completely, so that only a whisper is possible (Aphonie). The larynx with vocal folds and vocal cords is responsible for producing sounds for speaking, singing and screaming. If he is swollen or occupied, this will settle on the voice.
The following symptoms are characteristic of laryngitis:
- Voice change (dysphonia)
- Sore throat
- difficulties swallowing
- frequent hawking
- Foreign body sensation (“lump in throat”)
- possibly fever (acute laryngitis)
If the laryngitis is based on a viral infection, only the symptoms can be alleviated. Antibiotics do not help. Only if additional bacteria are involved in laryngitis, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic that specifically targets the pathogens.
Save the neck!
In addition, only helps to protect the neck and let the laryngeal mucosa to decay at rest. The following measures can help the body:
- Try to drink as much as possible despite swallowing – especially water and not lukewarm herbal teas.
- Protect your voice.
- Do not smoke!
- Avoid dusty and dry air.
- Avoid hot and spicy foods as well as alcohol.
Home remedy for laryngitis
Some patients use home remedies to treat laryngitis. For example, it may be helpful to inhale hot water vapor and saline solutions to moisturize the airways. You can also add eucalyptus oil or camomile to the water. Potato wraps and Quark wrap are also classic home remedies for laryngitis.
Chronic laryngitis: treatment often tedious
Chronic laryngitis is often less well treated than an acute one. Then it is very important that you spare your voice and generally irritate the respiratory system as little as possible. If you smoke, you should definitely take a break! The doctor may prescribe a cortisone preparation. It has an anti-inflammatory effect and reduces the swelling.
Sometimes chronic laryngitis is associated with a problem with voice training. In that case, it may be helpful to visit a speech therapist. If another condition is behind the laryngitis, such as chronic inflamed sinus or reflux disease, it is important to treat it.
Laryngitis: examinations and diagnosis
Most people with acute laryngitis are looking for the doctor because of typical cold symptoms. He first performs a general physical examination and looks into the patient’s throat to see if the neck is red, or the tonsils are swollen.
If a laryngitis is suspected, the doctor will ask for symptoms such as sore throat, coughing and hoarseness. He may then refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT specialist).
Laryngeal vision with laryngoscope
If the patient is conspicuously hoarse or complains of pain in the larynx, the ENT specialist looks at the larynx specifically for diagnosis. For this he uses a so-called laryngoscope. This is a small hand-held device specifically designed to look at the larynx. The doctor can examine the larynx and vocal cords through a mirror. In children or people with severe gagging, the doctor uses a flexible, tubular laryngoscope, which he introduces through his nose.
Reddened, thickened, verschleimt
In laryngitis, a reddened and thickened laryngeal mucosa appears in the laryngoscope. The vocal cords are usually red and swollen. In acute laryngitis, they are also often covered with viscous mucus and whitish or purulent deposits. The doctor may make a swab of the inflamed tissue that will help identify the specific pathogen.
Examination for cell changes
Laryngoscopy also serves to rule out other conditions, such as tuberculosis or laryngeal cancer. This is especially important for smokers. In case of doubt, the doctor takes a tissue sample of the laryngeal mucosa (biopsy) to have them examined in the laboratory for cell changes.
Laryngitis: Disease course and prognosis
An acute laryngitis usually runs uncomplicated and heals within a few days without further consequences. However, those who do not spare enough, talk or smoke a lot during this time risk the transition to a chronic form.
Even chronic laryngitis can develop completely back if it is recognized and treated in time. However, relapses are relatively common. If the chronic laryngitis lasts for a longer period of time, the laryngeal mucosa can change permanently.
Sometimes mucous membrane growths (polyps) form. In some cases, an excessive number of mucous glands (laryngitis hyperplastica) develop or the mucous glands completely stop working (laryngitis sicca).
With a morbidly altered and thickened laryngeal mucosa also increases the likelihood that the cells degenerate and develop a cancer of the larynx.