Hoarseness of voice, also known as dysphonia, is a common condition that affects the quality and pitch of the voice. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including laryngeal (voice box) disorders, vocal abuse or misuse, and systemic diseases. Hoarseness can be a temporary or chronic condition, and can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. In my practice, it is a common complaint encountered by teachers, call center agents, event hosts and also singers. If you’re experiencing hoarseness, it’s important to seek medical attention as it can be a symptom of a more serious condition such as laryngeal cancer. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for hoarseness of voice.
Causes of hoarseness
The larynx, or voice box, is a complex structure that is responsible for producing sound. The vocal folds, or cords, are two bands of muscle that vibrate to produce sound when air is expelled from the lungs. Hoarseness can occur when there is a problem with the vocal folds or the surrounding structures. Common laryngeal disorders that can cause hoarseness include laryngitis, polyps or nodules on the vocal folds, and cancer of the larynx. Vocal abuse or misuse is another common cause of hoarseness. This can include speaking or singing too loudly, for too long, or in an inappropriate pitch. Individuals who use their voice frequently, such as teachers or singers, are at an increased risk for vocal abuse. Additionally, smoking and exposure to irritants such as pollution can also damage the vocal folds and cause hoarseness.
Symptoms of hoarseness
The most common symptom of hoarseness is a change in the quality or pitch of the voice. This can range from a slight roughness to complete loss of voice. Other symptoms of hoarseness can include a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing, and a lump in the throat. Hoarseness can also be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as cancer. Laryngeal cancer is a rare but serious form of cancer that can cause hoarseness. Other symptoms of laryngeal cancer include difficulty swallowing, a lump in the throat, and a persistent cough. It is important to seek medical attention if hoarseness persists for more than two weeks or if there are other symptoms present.
Diagnosis of hoarseness
Diagnosis of hoarseness begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination. The healthcare provider will ask about symptoms, such as when the hoarseness began, how long it has lasted, and if there are any other symptoms present. A laryngoscopy, which is a procedure that allows the healthcare provider to visually examine the larynx, may be performed to identify any abnormalities or problems with the vocal folds. Additional tests, such as a CT scan or biopsy, may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment options for hoarseness
Treatment for hoarseness varies depending on the underlying cause. Laryngeal disorders, such as laryngitis or polyps, can often be treated with voice therapy or surgery. Vocal abuse can be treated by modifying the way the individual uses their voice, such as by avoiding speaking or singing loudly or for long periods of time. Systemic diseases, such as thyroid disorders or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux Disorder), will be treated by addressing the underlying condition.
In conclusion, hoarseness of voice is a common condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. It’s important to seek medical attention if hoarseness persists for more than two weeks or if there are other symptoms present. Diagnosis and treatment of hoarseness will vary depending on the underlying cause.
About The Author
Dr. Verns is a highly-skilled and compassionate physician who obtained her medical degree from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Medicine in 2014, and passed the Physician Licensure Exam in August of 2015. She is a certified Family Physician given by the Philippine Association of Family Physicians, and received her Diplomate in Family Medicine in 2022 and landed as top 6 in overall rankings in the Philippines. She is also a registered nurse both in the Philippines and the United States, having passed the US Nursing Licensure Exam in 2007.
Dr. Verns is a strong advocate of preventive care and believes that it makes a huge difference in the outcome of disease development. In the future, she is looking to further her education and training to become a diabetologist or lifestyle medicine fellow.