You've likely had days when your voice sounds excessively husky, raspy or weak. You may have even lost your voice for a short time. Laryngitis is an inflammation of your voice box (larynx) from overuse, irritation or infection. Inside the larynx are your vocal cords — two folds of mucous membrane covering muscle and cartilage. Normally, your vocal cords open and close smoothly, forming sounds through their movement and vibration.
But in laryngitis, your vocal cords become inflamed or irritated. This swelling causes distortion of the sounds produced by air passing over them. As a result, your voice sounds hoarse. In some cases of laryngitis, your voice can become almost undetectable.
Laryngitis may be short-lived (acute) or long lasting (chronic). Most cases of laryngitis are triggered by a temporary viral infection or vocal strain and aren't serious. Persistent hoarseness can sometimes signal a more serious underlying medical condition.
Some self-care methods may relieve and reduce strain on your voice:
Most cases of laryngitis are temporary and improve after the underlying cause gets better. Causes of acute laryngitis include:
Laryngitis that lasts longer than three weeks is known as chronic laryngitis. This type of laryngitis is generally caused by exposure to irritants over time. Chronic laryngitis can cause vocal cord strain and injuries or growths on the vocal cords (polyps or nodules). These injuries can be caused by:
Less common causes of chronic laryngitis include:
Other causes of chronic hoarseness include:
The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies provides answers you need to take care of common health problems on your own. This reference covers 120 of today’s common health problems in an easy-to-follow, A-to-Z format. Learn what you can do for yourself and when to seek medical attention.