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What Causes a Swollen Larynx?

Chronic smoking can damage vocal cords.
The larynx is commonly called the voice box.
A doctor should always be consulted if a child experiences a swollen larynx.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 12 March 2014
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A number of conditions can cause a swollen larynx, ranging from an infection in the larynx to exposure to irritating fumes and smoke. People with swollen larynxes often experience issues like a raspy, hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can evaluate the patient to determine the cause of the swelling, and provide information about treatment options. People may need to seek treatment for a swollen larynx, as it may indicate a serious problem.

Inflammation caused by vocal cord strain, as seen in people like cheerleaders and singers, can be a potential cause of a swollen larynx, as can infections with viruses and bacteria. Growths like nodules, polyps, and scarring along the vocal folds can all contribute to irritation and swelling. Another potential cause is inhalation of an irritant like paint fumes, smoke with lots of particulates, or inhaler propellant used for inhaled medications.

Cancer is another potential reason for a person's larynx to develop swelling. People with cancers of the larynx may also notice swelling around the lymph nodes, and can develop bloody coughing and difficulty speaking. A condition known as laryngopharyngeal reflux disease, where stomach acid backs up into the larynx, is also a known cause of swollen larynx, and can lead to discomfort while swallowing along with difficulty speaking.

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If a patient notices mild swelling, drinking lots of fluids and resting may resolve the problem within a few days. If the swelling persists, grows worse, or is accompanied by the development of new symptoms, it is advisable to seek treatment for a swollen larynx. A doctor can perform a physical examination and review the patient's medical history to collect diagnostic clues, using this information to arrive at a diagnosis.

Treatment options can include medications, rest, vocal exercises with a coach, and surgery, depending on the specifics of a patient's case. It is important to follow treatment directions carefully, particularly with respect to rest. Many patients may push their larynxes too soon after injuries and illnesses by talking and singing, causing a setback in their healing. Even if a patient feels fine, it is wise to get an all-clear from a doctor before using the voice again, in order to limit the potential of recurring inflammation in the larynx. A patient who has a history of swollen larynx, and sings or otherwise relies on the voice to make a living, may also want to consider working with a speech-language pathologist during recovery to limit the risk of reinjury.

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Discuss this Article

Esther11
Post 3

@Misscoco - I think that your sister should go for a checkup with an ear, nose and throat doctor.

It sounds a lot like the condition my friend at work has. Sometimes she has to make presentations at work. Her voice sounds, tense, tired and strained. Afterwards, she says her throat and neck hurt.

Anyway, she finally went to the doctor and he said she probably has something called. muscle tension dysphonia. It may be a medical condition and it may be muscle tension. This condition should be evaluated by a speech therapist.

The treatment the doctor suggested was voice therapy by a specialist, to relax muscles in the throat and neck. Voice therapy has worked pretty well in helping the throat to relax.

Bertie68
Post 2

For about the past five years, my sister has had a raspy, hoarse throat when she talks or sings. She says her throat feels very strained and tired if she talks too long. I've asked her to go to the doctor and have him look at her throat and vocal cords. She says it's no big deal. I don't know what could be causing this or what she can do about it.

Has anyone had these symptoms and difficulty with their voice?

Misscoco
Post 1

Wow - there sure are a lot of possible causes for a swollen larynx. And, many different symptoms. It can be a condition that is not too serious. In these cases, rest and drinking water may take care of things.

In other cases, a medical exam by a specialist, medication and surgery might be needed. Inflammation of the larynx might be caused by stomach acid coming up. Polys on the vocal cords and cancer are worrisome.

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