Laryngitis may be secondary to infection, allergies, trauma, benign or malignant lesions, neurologic dysfunction, functional issues, or systemic causes (see table).
|Causes of acute laryngitis||Causes of chronic laryngitis|
| Viral (most common):|
- Triggering factors: concurrent upper respiratory infection, vocal overuse/abuse, exposure to allergens or toxins
- Smoking, alcohol use, new medications
- Recent or past surgery involving the head and/or neck
- Recent or past trauma involving the head and/or neck
Signs and Symptoms (variable)
- Dry or sore throat
- Frequent throat clearing
- Increased saliva production
- Globus pharyngeus (feeling of a lump in the throat)
- Cold or flu-like symptoms
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, chest, or face
- Shortness of breath
- Vocal fatigue
- Aphonia (inability to voice a sound)
- Laryngitis due to trauma: a history of trauma to the head and/or neck
- Acute viral laryngitis: diagnosed by the low vocal pitch and hoarseness
- Fungal laryngitis: confirmation made by biopsy and culturing of abnormal lesions
- Laryngoscopy or stroboscopy for direct and complete visualization of true vocal folds, false vocal folds, epiglottis, pyriform sinus; and vallecula for:
- Erythema (reddening)
- Edema (swelling)
- Dilated blood vessels (acute)
- Thick, dry laryngeal tissue (chronic)
- Stiff vocal folds
- Viscous secretions in the vicinity of the vocal folds
|Acute laryngitis||Chronic laryngitis|
| Viral|| Reflux|
| Bacterial|| Inflammatory|
| Fungal|| Autoimmune|
| Trauma|| Granulomatous|
- Persistent but self-limited, typically resolving within 3 weeks
- Recovery is enhanced when patient follows the treatment regimen.
- In viral laryngitis, symptoms can persist for an extended period, even when upper respiratory tract inflammation has been resolved.
- Laryngitis that persists for more than 3 weeks
- Prognosis is dependent on the etiology of laryngitis.
- In the absence of upper respiratory infection symptomatology, patients with hoarseness persisting longer than 2 weeks should be referred for a complete otolaryngologist examination, especially in the presence of:
- Associated head and neck cancer risk factors (e.g., tobacco and alcohol use)
- Red flag symptomatology of a possible malignancy (e.g., hemoptysis, unilateral pain, dysphagia, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath)
The following conditions are in included in the differential diagnoses of laryngitis:
- Any condition that presents with dysphagia: patients experience difficulty swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others can’t swallow at all. Dysphagia may present due to allergies or “colds,” dehydration, gastroesophageal reflux disease, certain medications, or tumors in the mouth, throat, or esophagus.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease: the upward movement of gastric acid into the esophagus, which results in heartburn or chest pain. Acid reflux may spill over into the larynx, and acidic irritation to larynx may result in voice hoarseness.
- Tonsillitis: an inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils that is most commonly present in combination with an inflammation of the pharynx. Tonsillitis is very common among children and young adults and is primarily caused by viruses and group A streptococci.
- Laryngeal carcinoma: a malignant tumor of the larynx that affects older men most commonly. Risk factors include smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Allergic rhinitis: an inflammation of the nasal mucosa classified into allergic, non-allergic, and infectious. Allergic rhinitis is due to a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction. All 3 types present with nasal congestion, rhinorrhea, and sneezing.