August 1, 2015
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Laryngitis (cont.)

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Is laryngitis contagious?

Laryngitis is only contagious if it is caused by an infection. Laryngitis, upper respiratory infections, and colds are commonly a viral infection spread by aerosol droplets.

Disease transmission can be minimized or prevented by covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and proper hygiene habits (wash your hands often, don't share food utensils, wipe down door handles).

How is laryngitis diagnosed?

The health care professional often can make the diagnosis of laryngitis quickly at the doctor's office. The history of upper respiratory tract infection associated with loss of voice is reinforced by the patient answering questions in a hoarse voice. The examination is often brief and limited to the ears, nose, and throat, looking for other potential causes of the cold-like symptoms. If the throat is red and there is a concern about a streptococcal throat infection (strep throat) in addition to the laryngitis, a throat swab for a rapid strep test.

If the hoarse voice becomes chronic, the health care professional may want to take a more detailed history, trying to learn why the larynx has become inflamed for a prolonged period of time.

Questions may be asked:

  • Diet, use of alcohol, aspirin, ibuprofen, and smoking, all of which may cause gastroesophageal reflux disease. Alcohol and smoking can irritate the vocal cords.
  • Work and hobbies may reveal evidence of repeated chemical inhalation and exposure to air pollution.
  • Any signs or symptoms that suggest the potential of thyroid disease, stroke, or cancers of the head and neck will be explored.

Most cases of laryngitis need no testing to confirm the diagnosis. In those patients with chronic laryngitis, the necessity for blood tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests will depend upon the patient presentation and the potential concerns that the health care professional has regarding the cause of the hoarseness.

Laryngoscopy is the most common test performed to look directly at the vocal cords and evaluate their function. This procedure uses a thin tube containing a lighted fiberoptic camera that is inserted through the nose into the back of the throat. The health care practitioner performing the procedure can see whether the vocal cords are inflamed, if there are any polyps or nodules growing on them, and if the vocal cords move appropriately with breathing and speaking. This test is often performed by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), but many other physicians and specialists are trained to perform direct laryngoscopy. Indirect laryngoscopy may be attempted using a mirror placed in the back of the throat to visualize the vocal cords.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/1/2015


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