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What is Laryngeal Papilloma?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Laryngeal papilloma is a viral infection of the throat or larynx. The virus causes wart-like tumorous growths to form on the larynx, and sometimes the growths spread throughout the throat and into the mouth. The primary risk associated with the virus is that over time the tumors could increase in size to the extent that breathing could be compromised. Laryngeal papilloma is considered rare, and most commonly occurs in children.

Little is known about what causes some children to contract laryngeal papilloma, while others do not. In cases where all children in a given family have been exposed to the papilloma virus, not all of the children will contract the virus. Some studies suggest that some children may be more susceptible to the virus, perhaps due to genetics.

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Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma in children and babies may include a weak or hoarse cry, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes a nagging cough. In some cases, breathing may be accompanied by a whistling noise, and when this occurs, it could signal that the growths in the throat are beginning to obstruct the airway. Generally, this is considered a medical emergency, and a doctor should be seen immediately. Adults are not as likely to contract this condition, but when they do, adults will typically exhibit many of the same symptoms common in children, such as hoarseness and coughing. In addition, while the condition is often recurrent in children, and prone to spread throughout the throat and mouth, this is uncommon in adults.

Treatment for laryngeal papilloma varies, but typically would include antiviral medications and surgery. In cases where the airway is in danger of becoming obstructed, surgery is typically done first, and then followed up with antiviral medication. In the very early stages of the condition, doctors usually try the antiviral treatment first, in the hope that surgery can be avoided.

Surgical removal of papilloma tumors is usually done by laser. Laser surgery generally lessens the risk of scarring that could damage the voice box and throat. In addition, recovery time is usually much less with laser surgery than other more invasive procedures.

One of the most debilitating factors associated with laryngeal papilloma is that the condition tends to recur. This frequency of recurrence is much more common in children than in adults. In some cases, the growths may return within weeks of their removal; in other cases, recurrence may happen on a yearly basis. There is no known cure for the virus that causes laryngeal papilloma, so continued treatment is usually necessary. Laryngeal papilloma is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

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