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Alternative Names Return to topVoice strain; Dysphonia; Loss of voice
Definition Return to top
Hoarseness is having difficulty producing sound when trying to speak, or a change in the pitch or quality of the voice. The voice may sound weak, very breathy, scratchy, or husky.
Considerations Return to top
Hoarseness is usually caused by a problem in the vocal cords. Most cases of hoarseness are associated with inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis).
Hoarseness that lingers for weeks or months may be caused by a variety of problems. Some causes are minor, while others are serious.
Causes Return to top
Other causes include:
Home Care Return to top
Hoarseness may be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic), but is treated the same in most cases.
This kind of hoarseness is very resistant to medical therapy. Rest and time are the only ways to cure hoarseness that is not associated with other symptoms. Crying, shouting, and excessive talking or singing will only make the problem worse. Be patient, the healing process may take several days. Don't talk unless it is absolutely necessary and avoid whispering. Whispering can strain the vocal cords more than speaking does.
Gargling does not help the vocal cords. Avoid decongestants because they dry the vocal cords and prolong irritation. If you smoke, reduce or stop smoking.
Humidifying the air with a vaporizer or drinking fluids can offer some relief.
Treat conditions such as:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Make an appointment with a health care provider if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
If you are having severe difficulty breathing, the first priority is to restore normal breathing. This may require the placement of a breathing tube.
Once your condition is stable, the doctor will examine your throat and mouth. You will be asked questions about your symptoms and medical history, including:
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment depends on the cause of the problem.
References Return to top
Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St Louis, Mo; Mosby; 2005.
Rakel P, ed. Conn’s Current Therapy 2007. 59th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2007.Update Date: 10/10/2008 Updated by: Alan Lipkin, MD, Otolaryngologist, Private Practice, Denver, Colorado. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.