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Hoarse voice, also referred to as hoarseness or dysphonia, is a medical sign characterized by voice abnormalities. It may change the patient’s voice pitch, volume or deepness and may appear as a consequence of numerous reasons. However, one of the most common one is laryngitis, which is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx). In majority of the cases, the exact cause of hoarse voice can be revealed due to physical examination. Even though it is not dangerous ailment, it should be further evaluated by healthcare professionals, especially if this symptom continues for longer that one or two weeks.
Possible causes of hoarseness
Vocal cords are located inside the larynx and their major task is to modulate the air flow coming out from the lungs. Thanks to them, each individual can produce voice sounds. Hoarse voice is caused by certain malfunctions or damage of the those vocal cords, which further leads to their inappropriate vibrations. This type of ailment is changing the voice attributes, like volume, deepness or pitch. What is more, it can also modify the voice making it more harsh and rough.
There are variety of disorders which may lead to the hoarse voice, and the most common ones are:
- Thyroid-related disease
- Infection of the upper respiratory tract, such as laryngitis.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Certain allergies
- Vocal cords nodules or cysts, which are usually benign in nature
- Cancer of the lung, thyroid gland or larynx
In majority of the hoarse voice cases, physical examination is the only test needed, since it will effectively reveal the exact cause. Combination of other symptoms will only confirm the diagnosis. Occasionally, when unusual or rare disorder is suspected, such as thyroid disorder, biopsy or imaging are needed. However those incidents are in greater minority.
There are several methods which can improve this conditions and are based on simple life style adjustment. Resting of the voice is the most important part and should be considered at first. Vocal cords are already exhausted and it will prevent from any additional stress or injuries. Nevertheless, whispering needs to be avoided, it strains the vocal cords even more than usual speech. Air humidity should also be raised. It will extend and moisture air passageways, which will further make the breathing easier. It can be achieved by using special humidifiers or simply by taking a hot bath or shower.
Additional tips, which will help to mitigate the hoarse voice include:
- Limiting or quitting smoking
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- Removing possible allergens from the close environment
When to see a doctor
Hoarse voice is frequently a non-serious condition and will relieve, with the help of home treatment methods, within a few days. However, sometimes it is caused by a serious underlying conditions, thus it might need to be evaluated by healthcare providers. Early intervention is essential, since it will prevent from further injuries or permanent damage to the vocal cords.
Medical advice is recommended if one or more of those features appear:
- Hoarseness that continues for longer than one or two weeks
- Serious breathing or swallowing difficulties