Chronic laryngitis is long-term inflammation that affects a person’s larynx, which is the organ that houses the vocal chords. Often, people develop acute laryngitis, which goes away quickly, but some develop a case of the condition that lingers. When a person has chronic laryngitis, the inflammation and accompanying symptoms may last for weeks, months, or even years. Usually, chronic laryngitis is not accompanied by pain or infection, however. Its primary symptoms are vocal changes, such as hoarseness, but it may also cause a dry throat, postnasal drip, and discomfort when swallowing.
A person who has chronic laryngitis will typically speak in a hoarse voice. His voice may crack or break, and speaking clearly may require more effort than normal. In some cases, a person with this condition may feel as if he has a lump in his throat or that his throat is drier than usual. He may clear his throat frequently and experience post-nasal drip. Sometimes a person with this condition may also notice discomfort when he swallows, but outright pain is less likely to develop.
An individual may have laryngitis that lasts for several days, but such a case isn’t considered chronic. Instead, the symptoms of laryngitis must usually last for two weeks or more to be considered chronic. In some cases, laryngitis may even last for years. This often happens, for example, when it develops in relation to an action, such as smoking, or another condition, such as acid reflux. In fact, a person with a chronic case of acid reflux may have chronic laryngitis that lasts until the reflux is successfully controlled.
There are many things that may contribute to the development of chronic laryngitis. For example, a person may develop this condition because of cigarette smoking or due to continued exposure to inhaled chemicals or allergens. Acid reflux may contribute to its development, and chronic sinusitis may play a role in it as well. Some people may also develop this condition because of alcohol abuse. Additionally, singers and others who overuse their voices may also develop the condition.
Though less likely, chronic laryngitis can sometimes be caused by chronic infections and even parasites. It may also be caused by cancer of the vocal chords or some type of injury or trauma to the larynx. In some cases, it may even be caused by aging that contributes to changes in a person’s vocal chords.
In most cases, treatment of chronic laryngitis focuses on eliminating or controlling the conditions that contribute to it. Avoiding cigarette smoke, allergens, and chemical inhalation may help as well. Sometimes medications are used to reduce the inflammation of the vocal chords, but such treatment is often reserved for people who need their voices to sound normal because of their careers.