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What is Laryngeal Papilloma?

Laryngeal papilloma is a rare, noncancerous growth on the vocal cords caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). These wart-like tumors can cause hoarseness or breathing difficulties. Treatment often involves surgery, but recurrence is common. Intrigued by how these growths look and affect your voice? Dive deeper into the visual world of laryngeal papillomas and discover the latest treatment options. What might they reveal about vocal health?
Susan Grindstaff
Susan Grindstaff

Laryngeal papilloma is a viral infection of the throat or larynx. The virus causes wart-like tumorous growths to form on the larynx, and sometimes the growths spread throughout the throat and into the mouth. The primary risk associated with the virus is that over time the tumors could increase in size to the extent that breathing could be compromised. Laryngeal papilloma is considered rare, and most commonly occurs in children.

Little is known about what causes some children to contract laryngeal papilloma, while others do not. In cases where all children in a given family have been exposed to the papilloma virus, not all of the children will contract the virus. Some studies suggest that some children may be more susceptible to the virus, perhaps due to genetics.

Laryngeal papilloma is a viral infection of the larynx.
Laryngeal papilloma is a viral infection of the larynx.

Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma in children and babies may include a weak or hoarse cry, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes a nagging cough. In some cases, breathing may be accompanied by a whistling noise, and when this occurs, it could signal that the growths in the throat are beginning to obstruct the airway. Generally, this is considered a medical emergency, and a doctor should be seen immediately. Adults are not as likely to contract this condition, but when they do, adults will typically exhibit many of the same symptoms common in children, such as hoarseness and coughing. In addition, while the condition is often recurrent in children, and prone to spread throughout the throat and mouth, this is uncommon in adults.

A weak or hoarse cry can be a sign of laryngeal papilloma.
A weak or hoarse cry can be a sign of laryngeal papilloma.

Treatment for laryngeal papilloma varies, but typically would include antiviral medications and surgery. In cases where the airway is in danger of becoming obstructed, surgery is typically done first, and then followed up with antiviral medication. In the very early stages of the condition, doctors usually try the antiviral treatment first, in the hope that surgery can be avoided.

Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma in adults may include difficulty swallowing.
Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma in adults may include difficulty swallowing.

Surgical removal of papilloma tumors is usually done by laser. Laser surgery generally lessens the risk of scarring that could damage the voice box and throat. In addition, recovery time is usually much less with laser surgery than other more invasive procedures.

One of the most debilitating factors associated with laryngeal papilloma is that the condition tends to recur. This frequency of recurrence is much more common in children than in adults. In some cases, the growths may return within weeks of their removal; in other cases, recurrence may happen on a yearly basis. There is no known cure for the virus that causes laryngeal papilloma, so continued treatment is usually necessary. Laryngeal papilloma is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

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    • Laryngeal papilloma is a viral infection of the larynx.
      By: Alila Medical Media
      Laryngeal papilloma is a viral infection of the larynx.
    • A weak or hoarse cry can be a sign of laryngeal papilloma.
      By: Peter Galbraith
      A weak or hoarse cry can be a sign of laryngeal papilloma.
    • Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma in adults may include difficulty swallowing.
      By: thepoo
      Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma in adults may include difficulty swallowing.
    • Laryngeal papilloma most commonly occurs in children.
      By: Jamie Wilson
      Laryngeal papilloma most commonly occurs in children.
    • Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma may include coughing.
      By: Zsolt Biczó
      Symptoms of laryngeal papilloma may include coughing.
    • Ultrasound imaging may be used to diagnose some cases of laryngeal papilloma.
      By: Nejron Photo
      Ultrasound imaging may be used to diagnose some cases of laryngeal papilloma.