What is the Difference Between a Sore Throat and Laryngitis?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2018
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A sore throat and laryngitis are fairly common and relatively minor conditions that affect the esophagus and larynx. While "sore throat" is a term used to describe almost any type of throat pain caused by a variety of conditions, laryngitis is specifically an inflammation of the larynx, and usually causes hoarseness or a weak voice. Both of these conditions can be caused by some of the same things, especially cold and flu.

Laryngitis causes hoarseness because the membranes covering the vocal cords become inflamed, distorting or muffling the sounds made when a person talks. In extreme cases, the sufferer may lose his or her voice almost entirely. It does not interfere with breathing, but may make it difficult to communicate.

This condition may be acute or chronic. Acute laryngitis usually comes on quickly and passes in no more than two weeks; minimizing using the voice may help speed recovery. Chronic laryngitis is recurring or long-term laryngitis and can be caused by factors like nerve damage, polyps on the vocal cords, or acid-reflux. Acid from the stomach backing up into the esophagus may irritate and inflame the larynx, leading to laryngitis.


Sore throat itself is often a symptom of laryngitis. Other symptoms may include coughing, dry throat, and trouble swallowing. A sore throat and laryngitis can also be caused by allergies or irritation due to pollution or smoke inhalation. The two conditions can share many causes and one can be a symptom of the other.

A very large number of problems besides laryngitis have sore throat as a symptom, including throat cancer and viral or bacterial infections like streptococcus, mononucleosis, candida, and even AIDS. Most sore throats are simple inflammations of the mucous membranes lining the throat. A simple sore throat is usually not serious and usually passes in a few days. If it persists for a week or more, it may be a symptom of one of the more serious conditions or even another problem, such as epiglottitis.

As a sore throat and laryngitis can be caused by so many different factors and may be inter-connected, it is always best to consult a doctor if a person is unsure about the cause of either condition. A doctor should also be consulted if either condition persists for more than a few days. A sore throat and laryngitis may be minor irritations that pass quickly, but if either condition lingers, it may indicate a more serious health problem.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

@Oceana – I've never gotten laryngitis from vocal strain, but I have had the viral version. Let me tell you, it is quite a surprise to wake up and be unable to speak, especially when you haven't been yelling or singing the day before.

Within an hour, I noticed that my throat was hurting and I felt strange. I checked my temperature and found that I had a fever.

I visited my doctor, because I was puzzled by these symptoms. I had experienced sore throats in the past, but I had never lost my voice from one.

She told me that I had laryngitis caused by a virus. So, all that I could do was take ibuprofen to ease the swelling and fever and avoid talking. I had to write down everything I wanted to say to my family for about a week.

Post 3

I can tell by reading this article that I have never had laryngitis. However, I have had several run-ins with a sore throat.

If I have a plain sore throat, I usually just wait for it to go away. It is very easy for me to tell whether I have just a sore throat or strep throat, because if I have strep, I will be in so much agony that I have to go see my doctor.

Strep throat makes it nearly impossible to swallow even saliva. I feel like my throat is swelling shut. Also, I get at least a 100 degree fever and sweat through the night.

Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics and steroids, but a regular old sore throat usually just has to pass on its own. Viruses like colds are usually the cause of sore throats, and antibiotics are ineffective against them.

Post 2

I got laryngitis after being exposed to a ton of dust, and it felt different than any sore throat I have ever had. I had been cleaning out the extremely dirty utility room of the house I was about to move into, and I had breathed in an unsafe amount of dust.

I have allergies anyway, so this really caused problems for me. The next day, my voice was gone. I had a persistent cough, and it felt as though I had all that dust down in my lungs.

The part of my throat around my tonsils that gets inflamed during a cold wasn't affected. My pain was deeper down, but the main issue was the disappearance of my voice and the presence of that cough.

Post 1

One difference between sore throat and laryngitis is that you can actually cause yourself to develop laryngitis by straining your voice, but a sore throat alone is caused by factors beyond your control. Every time I have gotten just a sore throat, it has been due to some bacteria or virus. Though there is such a thing as bacterial and viral laryngitis, there is also the kind that you get just from overusing your vocal cords.

I got laryngitis while recording an album. I had been singing all day for months, and my voice was becoming hoarse. One day, I awoke with a lump in my throat, and my voice was reduced to a scratchy whisper.

My doctor told me I had to take a break from singing. I had brought the condition upon myself.

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