Laryngitis: Causes And Symptoms

Laryngitis is defined as an inflammation of the laryngeal mucosa, the organ responsible for giving way to inspired and expired air. It is the most special area for phonation, because the vocal cords are found there.

According to experts from the Spanish Society of Otorhinolaryngology (SEORL), this pathology is considered acute if normality is restored after a short period of time (hours or days). In case the symptoms last for more than three weeks, we will be dealing with cases of a chronic nature.

As we will see, laryngitis is a very common disease, in most cases of viral origin. That is why knowing its causes and symptoms is essential. Here we show you everything you need to know about it.

How is it distributed in the population?

Knowing the epidemiology of laryngitis, that is, who it affects and what is its prevalence (number of infected in a given population), is essential to address it. Epidemiological studies provide us with a series of data of special interest:

  • Acute laryngitis accounts for 15-20% of respiratory diseases.
  • The incidence in infants is 3 to 6%. That is, approximately 6 out of 100 people under the age of six suffer from this pathology in any given period of time.
  • The typical profile of the affected person is a two-year-old male who suffers from the disease during the fall and winter.
  • Acute laryngitis has a clear family component, since according to pediatric magazines, children with relatives who have suffered it are three times more likely to present it.

As we have seen, we are facing a pathology that predominates in children’s environments. This is due to the fact that up to six years of age, young children have a higher glottis and looser and less fibrous submucosal tissues, factors that predispose to infection.

Person with a sore throat.

Causes and symptoms

Research includes various causes that can cause laryngitis in the population. These are the following:

  • Infectious: they can be due to viruses (cold, flu, herpes), bacteria ( Mycoplasma,  diphtheria) or fungi (candidiasis or aspergillosis).
  •  Non-infectious –  caused by allergies, trauma, medications, or autoimmune disorders.

Viral laryngitis

According to studies, parainfluenza viruses 1, 2 and 3 are responsible for 65% of cases. Influenza A and B viruses (which cause the flu) and various types of adenoviruses are also common causative agents.

These pathogens are associated with an upper respiratory infection, leading to typical clinical manifestations of influenza. Some of them are the following:

  • Fever.
  • Dry and sore throat.
  • Dysphagia, that is, discomfort to swallow.
  • Difficulty breathing and presence of continuous coughing.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Earache.

These symptoms derive, in part, from the inflammation of the pharyngeal mucosa, which is red and edematous, that is, with an accumulation of extracellular fluid. Treatment is based on the patient’s vocal rest and the application of antipyretics and analgesics.

In acute cases, this disease is self-resolving; it ceases a few days after its appearance. The immune system fights the causative agent and there are no sequelae.

Bacterial laryngitis

Second on the list of importance. According to various bibliographic sources, this variant is also self-resolving and quick to heal, but we should not for this reason fail to mention it.

One of the most common causative agents is bacteria of the genus  Mycoplasma , which contains more than 100 different species. The symptoms are very similar to those mentioned above: fever, non-productive cough, pain when swallowing food and dysphonia (loss of the normal timbre of the voice).

In these cases, the treatment to be followed is based on the use of antibiotics. Erythromycin, clarithromycin, or azithromycin are effective drugs for killing bacteria in the larynx.

Non-infectious laryngitis

There are some events that produce this disease of non-pathogenic origin, which do not respond to microorganisms, but to use and the environment that surrounds the person:

  • For allergies: it is the acute inflammation of the vocal cords and the rest of the laryngeal mucosa after the inhalation of allergens. It presents with variable symptoms, from hawking to severe airway obstruction.
  • Inhalation:  by direct contact of the laryngeal tissue with harmful elements, such as smoke or very hot air. Common in fire or fire survivors.
  • Due to trauma or vocal effort:  laryngeal irritation is produced by a blow or overexertion of the vocal cords continued over time.
Woman with sore throat from laryngitis.

Laryngitis: what to remember?

In these lines we have reflected that laryngitis is a multifaceted pathology, as it has various causes that range from infectious agents to simple injuries. Of course, there are common symptoms for all of them, such as dysphonia and the presence of a non-productive cough.

Because infectious variants are the most common, they are transmitted between population sectors by direct contact or inhalation of fluids. Therefore, they appear with certain epidemiological patterns, showing peaks during winter and autumn.

These respiratory diseases are quite common in infants. It is not necessary to worry, as its nature tends to be self-solving. Still, if symptoms persist for more than two weeks, visiting the doctor urgently is the best option.

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