Cover image for the article Inflammation of the Vocal Cords

Inflammation of the vocal cords: causes and method of treatment

Inflammation of the vocal cords is a common condition known scientifically as laryngitis. One of its main symptoms is hoarseness due to inflammation of the vocal cords, often associated with a sore throat.

Inflammation of the vocal cords develops over a short period in a person, causing severe symptoms such as coughing, hoarseness, and a general condition that resembles the flu.

There are many causes of inflammation of the vocal cords (laryngitis), and each reason has its treatment. Conservative treatment at home prevails over the case, with the need to adhere to medical instructions to avoid the risk of chronic disease and complications. Follow along with us in this article to learn more about inflammation of the vocal cords.

What is inflammation of the vocal cords (Chorditis Vocalis)?

It is irritation of the mucous membrane of the larynx and its swelling due to irritants (chemical substances or bacterial or viral infections). This swelling leads to enlargement of the vocal cords and an increase in their size with disturbances in their movement (sometimes vocal cord paralysis may occur), which causes hoarseness and difficulty in speaking. Irritants also cause a patient to cough.

A graphic showing the difference between a normal larynx and an inflamed larynx
The difference between a normal larynx and an inflamed larynx

This disease often occurs suddenly and rapidly and develops until it peaks within three days. It may continue for a week or two and usually follows spontaneous recovery. However, this does not mean leaving the condition without treatment due to the risk of chronic disease and its continuation for a more extended period, with complications.

Causes of inflammation of the vocal cords

There are many causes of vocal cord inflammation; therefore, the treatment varies according to the reason. The reasons are classified as follows:

Infective laryngitis

It is one of the most common causes of laryngitis and is divided according to the causative agent into viral, bacterial, and fungal. Viruses are the most common cause of inflammation of the vocal cords, especially the parainfluenza virus, which gives symptoms similar to a common cold, with coughing and hoarseness.

Bacterial causes are less common, but they may be encountered in some patients, especially the diphtheria germ, and it may be dangerous when infection occurs.

Fungal infections of the larynx are rare and are usually seen in immunocompromised patients such as AIDS patients or those treated with chemotherapy. The most common cause of fungal laryngitis is Candida albicans.

Mechanical laryngitis

It is the occurrence of inflammation of the vocal cords due to shouting or singing for long periods or in high pitches; this leads to vibration of the vocal cords at a high frequency, which leads to the destruction and wounding of the mucous membranes of the vocal cords, followed by inflammation of the vocal cords.

Mechanical vocal cord inflammation may also occur due to chronic coughing, especially if the cough is severe and forceful, which injures the vocal cords repeatedly.

Mechanical vocal cord inflammation also occurs due to the constant attempt to clear the throat and excrete secretions from the airways. These attempts cause injury to the larynx and irritation of the vocal cords.

External trauma to the neck in the larynx may cause irritation and sometimes inflammation of the vocal cords.

Chemical laryngitis

It occurs mainly in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, causing damage to the vocal cords with stomach acid, which often causes chronic inflammation of the larynx.

Chemical inflammation of the vocal cords also occurs when volatile chemicals are swallowed by mistake or with intent to commit suicide, causing damage to the throat, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus and causing severe inflammation.

Inhalation of larynx-irritating and harmful vapors causes chemical inflammation of the vocal cords.

Allergic laryngitis

Some people suffer from sensitivity to certain substances, such as dust, which leads to an allergic reaction in the vocal cords in the larynx and allergic vocal cord inflammation. The allergic reaction may be severe in some cases, including the bronchi, causing larynx and trachea sensitivity.

Other causes of laryngitis

Smoking is one of the most important causes of inflammation of the vocal cords, in addition to causing permanent damage to the mucous membrane of the smoker's larynx. Excessive alcohol consumption is also one of the causes of inflammation of the vocal cords as well.

Symptoms of inflammation of the vocal cords

Symptoms of laryngitis (voice box) include generalized whole-body manifestations and specific manifestations directly related to inflammation of the vocal cords.

General symptoms of inflammation of the vocal cords

It varies according to the cause. If the patient is infected with influenza viruses, symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection will appear, which are:

  • headache
  • fever
  • general fatigue
  • rhinorrhea
  • muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Palatine tonsillitis
  • pain when swallowing

Symptoms are more severe if germs are the cause. If the reason is allergic, allergy symptoms will appear in the patient, which is:

  • Itch
  • Skin and eye redness
  • Increased tear secretion
  • Runny nose
  • Breathing difficulty

Symptoms of acute laryngitis and vocal cords

These symptoms are caused by enlargement of the vocal cords and direct damage to the laryngeal mucosa, and thus the vocal muscles are affected, and the following symptoms occur:

  • Change in the patient's voice (hoarseness)
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling of sore throat
  • Persistent, dry cough (due to hyper-irritation of the larynx)
  • Sometimes coughing up secretions (green, yellow or colorless sputum)

These symptoms begin suddenly and increase in intensity over the next two days. Patient improvement and disappearance of symptoms usually start a week after the onset of vocal cord inflammation. They are sometimes associated with sinusitis.

The hoarseness of the voice may continue for a week after the symptoms disappear. In rare cases, the patient's breathing may be affected due to the vocal cords' swelling and the airway's closure. This condition rarely occurs in adults and is most common in children (inflammation of the vocal cords in children) and may become life-threatening.

Diagnosis of laryngitis

Vocal cord inflammation is diagnosed by an otolaryngologist (ENT), who makes the diagnosis based on the patient's clinical history and symptoms. Then he confirms his diagnosis with some imaging investigations such as:

Laryngoscopy

Endoscopy uses a rigid or flexible endoscope, a thin wire with a tiny camera attached to its head. It is inserted through the nose or mouth to cross the throat, where the larynx and vocal cords appear clearly, and any inflammation, swelling, or poor movement in the cords occurs.

Laryngoscopy image showing inflammation of the vocal cords
Inflammation of the vocal cords demonstrated by laryngoscopy

This procedure is essential in patients with chronic vocal cord inflammation (smokers and gastroesophageal reflux patients) because of the risk of developing Throat Cancer They have where abnormal growth in the mucous membrane of the larynx or cords suggests a tumor or cancer.

Treatment of inflammation of the larynx and vocal cords

As mentioned above, laryngitis and vocal cords usually heal spontaneously without needing treatment. Treatment for the first stage of the disease will be limited to tips to improve general symptoms and speed up the healing process.

This applies to inflammation of the vocal cords caused by a viral infection, which is often the most common cause. In other cases, therapeutic intervention is necessary to achieve recovery.

Treating inflammation of the vocal cords at home

These are tips for treating infections of the vocal cords that help relieve symptoms of the disease and speed up the healing process, which is (method of treatment for laryngitis at home):

  • Remain as calm and silent as possible to rest the vocal cords
  • Moisturizing the throat and airways by inhaling water vapor (while it is boiling) or using a menthol spray
  • Sucking on cough tablets
  • Gargle with warm salt water (adults only)
  • It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids
  • avoid speaking loudly or whispering (both of which strain the vocal cords)
  • Avoid smoking or sitting in a room where smokers are present
  • Avoid sitting in a room where the air conditioner is on (it makes the air dry, which damages the vocal cords and causes a dry throat)
  • Avoid excessive drinking of coffee or alcohol as it will lead to dehydration

Herbal treatment of inflammation of the vocal cords

Several plants have a good reputation for treating throat, pharynx, and larynx infections, but taking them may interfere with some medications, so it is preferable to consult a doctor to avoid possible drug interactions. Among the most important of these herbs used in the treatment of laryngitis (treatment of hoarse voice):

  • Licorice
  • Khatmia or mallow
  • Elm red with lemon
  • Honey tea
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • ginger
  • the Garlic
Image of natural remedies used in inflammation of the vocal cords (treatment of inflammation of the vocal cords with herbs)
Herbal treatment of inflammation of the vocal cords

Pharmacological treatment of inflammation of the vocal cords

Some medications may relieve symptoms, speed up healing, and relieve pain. The most important of these medications are:

  • Painkillers: such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  • Cough medications
  • Gargling medicines for sore throat

Treatment of the causes of inflammation of the vocal cords

By treating the underlying cause of laryngitis, the inflammation will be cured. Otherwise, the vocal cord inflammation becomes chronic. Each reason has its treatment, as follows:

  • Treatment of bacterial vocal cord inflammation: Here, we use antibiotics according to the type of germ causing the infection to achieve recovery
  • Treatment of gastroesophageal reflux: the doctor prescribes to treat this condition anti-acid medications, and we may need surgery sometimes; click here to learn more about Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Treatment of allergic infections: antihistamine drugs are prescribed while avoiding the substance that causes the allergy. Some cases may be an emergency that requires going to the hospital immediately (allergic shock).

Vocal therapy in Türkiye

It is a treatment method based on teaching the patient how to adjust the pitch of his voice and relax his vocal cords through specific vocal exercises to reduce stress on them to treat mechanical vocal cord inflammation resulting from prolonged screaming (treatment of hoarseness due to screaming).

Complications of inflammation of the vocal cords

In some cases, spontaneous recovery may not occur, and the patient’s condition develops to become worse, so some sequelae occur that necessitate going to the doctor or hospital immediately (especially in inflammation of the vocal cords in children), which are:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Excess salivation
  • The temperature rises above 38 degrees
  • Panting and suffocation of the patient due to narrowing of the airway

Inflammation of the vocal cords is common, and most cases are benign. There are two types: acute (lasts a week) and chronic (lasts more than a month). In a typical case, it is necessary to investigate the causes and treat them as soon as possible to eliminate the symptoms and avoid the risk of developing complications. In the acute case, you must follow the tips mentioned for the inflammation of the vocal cords to heal quickly.


Sources:

  1. NHS inform
  2. NHS
  3. WebMD
  4. healthline

Frequently Asked Questions

Vocal cord infections are usually treated by following tips such as inhaling hot water vapor, reducing talking, not speaking in a whisper or a loud voice, and stopping smoking.

The hoarseness of the voice usually lasts a week and may decrease or increase depending on the severity of the patient's condition.

Warm infusions of elm with lemon, licorice, and mallow or sealant are useful for hoarseness, sore throats, and vocal cords. Garlic, ginger, and tea with honey may also help.

The case of inflammation of the vocal cords is usually benign and heals within a week. If it continues for more than that, the cause must be sought after and treated.

If you are planning for treatment in Turkey
you can talk to us here.

If you are planning for treatment in Turkey
you can talk to us here.

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