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What is laryngitis?

The larynx is the voice box, the area of the throat where the vocal cords and the rest of the cartilage and muscles that intervene to form the voice through movement and vibration that occurs with the passage of air are located.

When we talk about laryngitis, we highlight the inflammation of this area, a condition that includes swollen glands, a sore throat, and can lead to sound distortion, causing a deeper or hoarser voice in the patient.

Laryngitis can be classified as acute, a short-duration condition, or chronic, which relates to ongoing discomfort for more than two weeks.

During laryngitis, the patient may experience various symptoms related to the throat, and the voice can range from hoarse to almost imperceptible, depending on the individual.

It is necessary to seek professional medical help when there is suspicion of chronic laryngitis that produces persistent hoarseness. While laryngitis is not related to anything serious, it can reveal underlying conditions such as lymph node infections.

Symptoms of laryngitis.

To recognize inflammation of the larynx, it is necessary to identify if any of these symptoms are present:

  • Sore throat.
  • Dry cough.
  • Scratchiness in the throat or irritation.
  • Partial or total loss of voice.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Feeling of having a dry throat.

Alarm signals to consult an otolaryngologist.

It is important to know which alarming symptoms require immediate professional review, and these are:

  • Expulsion of blood with coughing.
  • Respiratory problems or difficulty breathing.
  • High and persistent fever.
  • Persistent and increasing pain within a period of more than two weeks.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Your breathing becomes noisy (wheezing, snoring, or stridor).

Although we mentioned that laryngitis is not a serious condition, it is related to other organs of the respiratory tract that require immediate attention in case of presenting symptoms.

Causes of laryngitis.

Respiratory infections are the leading cause of laryngitis, which can be due to a viral or bacterial infection. However, other reasons may include:

  • Infections by microorganisms like parasites. As a result, they can cause acute or chronic laryngitis, depending on each case.
  • Excessive use of the voice, known as vocal stress. It can be caused by screaming, singing, or not hydrating the throat properly.
  • Intoxication by gases, some chemicals, or smoke can irritate the larynx, or in other cases, provoke allergic reactions.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol and other harmful substances, such as excessive tobacco use.

Diagnostic process to detect laryngitis.

Acute laryngitis can be diagnosed through a physical examination carried out by an otolaryngologist, who rules out that other areas of the respiratory tract are involved.

On the other hand, chronic cases of laryngitis require more detailed attention, including specialized tests recommended by a professional otolaryngologist such as laryngoscopy to identify the disease behind the problem.

The most important thing is to determine the origin of the infection. If it is a viral infection, the most common approach is to treat the symptoms and monitor improvement. In cases of bacterial infection, a different strategy should be established.

Treatment for laryngitis.

Home care measures:

A recommendation for cases of acute laryngitis caused by a viral infection or vocal stress. These care measures include rest for the voice, increased fluid intake, avoiding irritants such as cigarettes, etc.

Antibiotic medication:

Ideal for cases in which the infection is bacterial. To detect this type of laryngitis, the doctor must perform certain tests to determine the cause and prescribe an effective antibiotic.

Corticosteroid medications:

Effective for emergency cases where respiratory function needs to be restored, airways expanded, and laryngitis associated with croup treated.

Risk factors for laryngitis.

  • Being exposed to irritant gases can increase the chances of developing laryngitis. These agents can include: smoke in any form, large quantities of alcoholic beverages, emissions of chemical substances in the workplace, or household cleaning products.
  • Being in places where excessive use of the voice is required, such as singing, shouting, or speaking loudly.
  • Suffering from infectious diseases such as the flu, cold, sinusitis, bronchitis, etc.

Do you think you have laryngitis? Dr. Lech can help you in Panama.

A Panama-based otolaryngologist who is willing to help you regain your health.

Types of Laryngitis.

Acute Laryngitis:

Acute laryngitis is short-lived and is often associated with viral infections, such as the common cold or the flu. Symptoms include hoarseness, sore throat, dry cough, and, in some cases, fever. Most of the time, acute laryngitis is mild in nature and resolves on its own without severe complications. However, in more severe cases or if it is a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be required.

Possible Complications of Acute Laryngitis:

While acute laryngitis is usually benign, in rare cases, it can lead to complications, especially if not managed correctly:

  • Airway Obstruction: Inflammation of the larynx can cause narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. This is more common in young children and may require emergency medical attention.
  • Secondary Infections: Acute laryngitis can weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of developing secondary infections such as pneumonia.
  • Vocal Cord Damage: Chronic vocal cord abuse during an episode of acute laryngitis can damage the vocal cords, leading to long-term voice problems.

Chronic Laryngitis:

Chronic laryngitis is persistent inflammation of the larynx that lasts more than three weeks.

It is often associated with chronic factors such as smoking, constant vocal abuse, exposure to environmental irritants, or gastroesophageal reflux. Symptoms include ongoing hoarseness, chronic cough, and difficulty swallowing for more than two weeks.

Possible Complications of Chronic Laryngitis:

Chronic laryngitis, if not properly treated, can lead to severe complications, including:

  • Permanent Vocal Changes: Chronic inflammation of the vocal cords can cause permanent changes in the voice, affecting vocal quality.
  • Laryngeal Cancer: Chronic abuse of the vocal cords and constant irritation can increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
  • Breathing Difficulty: Prolonged inflammation of the larynx can lead to stenosis, narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult.
  • Dysphagia: Chronic laryngitis can lead to swallowing difficulties, affecting quality of life and nutrition.
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