A wide range of medical conditions can lead to voice problems

A wide range of conditions can lead to voice problems. Voice problems that persist beyond two weeks without any signs of improvement should be investigated. The most common reasons of hoarseness and vocal difficulties are discussed as below:

Acute Laryngitis

  • This is the most common cause of hoarseness and voice loss that starts suddenly
  • Most cases are due to viral infection although less commonly bacterial and other infections may be the cause
  • The best treatment for this condition is to stay well hydrated and to rest or reduce your voice use, to avoid serious injury to the vocal cords
  • Sinus viruses are mostly responsible, antibiotics are not generally effective
  • Bacterial infections of the larynx are rare, and often are associated with difficulty breathing. Any breathing problems during an illness warrants emergency evaluation

Chronic laryngitis

Chronic laryngitis is caused by a variety of conditions, which include:

  • Acid reflux disease
  • Exposure to irritants such as smoke, fumes, perfumes etc
  • Low grade infections such as fungal infections of the vocal cords in people using inhalers for asthma, chemotherapy patients or others whose immune system is compromised

Voice misuse and overuse

Speaking is a complex process that requires coordination of breathing with the use of several muscle groups. Excessively loud, prolonged, and/or inefficient voice use can lead to vocal difficulties, just like improper lifting can lead to back injuries.

Voice misuse and overuse increases the risk of developing benign vocal cord problems such as:

  • Nodules on vocal cords (also known as singer’s nodules)
  • Polyps on vocal cords
  • Cysts on the vocal cords
  • Bleeding into the vocal cords

All these are treated with voice rest, hydration and voice therapy to prevent ongoing problems.

Paralysed vocal cord

  • The most common neurological condition that affects the larynx (voice box) leading to hoarseness is a paralysis or weakness of one or both vocal cords
  • When one vocal cord is paralysed or weak, altered voice is usually the main problem, while if both are paralysed breathing tends to be affected more
  • The common reason is a viral infection, but cancer and surgery are other reasons and often a cause may not be found
  • Many cases of vocal cord paralysis will recover within several months. In some cases however, the paralysis will be permanent, and may require active treatment, which may include surgery to improve the voice
  • Voice therapy may be used before or after surgical treatment of the paralysed vocal cords, or it can also be used as the sole treatment

Laryngeal cancer

  • Throat cancer is a very serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. Chronic hoarseness warrants evaluation by an otolaryngologist (ENT Surgeon) to rule out cancer
  • It is important to remember that prompt attention to changes in the voice facilitate an early diagnosis
  • Laryngeal cancer is highly curable if diagnosed in its early stages
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PRACTICE MANAGER: Chelsea Fulton 07534 771264 MEDICAL SECRETARY: Karen Harris 07453 881588
CORRESPONDENCE ADDRESS: Enso House Crayfields Business Park, 3 New Mill Road, Orpington BR5 3TW | Tel: 01689 490119 | Fax: 01689 873221