Who hasn't experienced the raspy hoarseness associated with a cold or the flu? This annoying laryngitis resolves by itself within a few days to a week, but if you aren't sick, what could be causing this vocal weakness? The Ear Nose & Throat Surgeons of Western New England ask their Northampton and Springfield, MA patients to tell them when hoarseness persists more than two weeks. While the cause of it may not be sinister, lasting hoarseness should be evaluated by the experts.
The causes of hoarseness in Northampton and Springfield
When you see your ear, nose & throat specialist, he or she will ask you about your symptoms, how long they have been happening and what may help or worsen them. Also, the doctor will review your medications and order tests as necessary to visualize your vocal folds and larynx (voice box).
These examinations happen right in the office, usually with a fiberoptic scope or videostroboscopy. The images allow the doctor to seek the internal anatomy of the throat and also how the larynx functions in real time.
The underlying reasons for hoarseness are many, and may include:
- Benign nodules and polyps (sometimes originating in overuse of the voice as with singers)
- HPV-related warts
- Upper respiratory infections
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Asthma and asthma medications (such as inhaled corticosteroids)
- Thyroid problems (the thyroid is an H-shaped organ located on the larynx)
- Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption
Your ENT doctor will treat your hoarseness according to his or her diagnostic findings. For small benign growths, in-office endoscopic resection (involving a lighted tube inserted down the throat) may suffice. Laser treatments help eliminate or reduce the size of papillomas (warts) in the throat.
Many lifestyle modifications help alleviate hoarseness as well, state ENT experts at the Cleveland Clinic. They include:
- Staying well hydrated in the winter weather
- Getting sufficient in-house humidification
- Controlling acid reflux with diet and medications
- Avoiding overuse of the voice (no yelling)
- Using a spacer when using an inhaled steroid for asthma maintenance (as recommended in Health Central)
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol
Is your voice hoarse?
If this persists, find out why. Contact Ear Nose & Throat Surgeons of Western New England to arrange a consultation with one of our seven physicians. We have three locations to serve you. In Springfield, call (413) 732-7426. In Northampton, phone (413) 586-2033, or for our Mary Lane Hospital office, call (413) 967-2249.