Hoarseness occurs when you experience an abnormal change in your voice. Hoarseness can cause your voice to change in a variety of ways, although most of us associate it with a weaker, raspier voice. There are a variety of causes for hoarseness, but can hoarseness be something more serious?
What Causes Hoarseness
Irritation or injury to the vocal cords – often referred to as the voice box and clinically known as the larynx – is the typical cause of hoarseness. The larynx is made of cartilage and contains bands of muscle in a V-shape that vibrate to make sounds when we speak and sing. Laryngitis – inflammation of the vocal cords – is the most common cause of hoarseness. Most often, hoarseness will go away on its own and is just a temporary irritation caused from yelling, singing, and overuse of the vocal cords or from a cold with a cough that irritates the larynx. Smoking can also cause hoarseness. Additional reasons you may experience hoarseness include untreated GERD, polyps on the vocal cords, and certain throat cancers.
When Should Hoarseness Be Cause for Concern?
If you experience ongoing hoarseness that doesn’t go away or cannot be traced to a cause such as a recent cold or cough or overuse of the vocal cords, you may want to see a physician to determine the cause. If you have any difficulty breathing, begin to cough up blood, or have a lump on your neck, you should seek immediate medical attention for your hoarseness.
How Is the Cause of My Hoarseness Determined?
In addition to a medical exam and medical history, your physical will examine your neck and throat carefully. You may need to have an upper GI, in which a lighted, flexible tube is inserted into your throat so that the doctor can see your vocal cords. From there, a treatment plan can be developed, which may include antibiotics, lifestyle changes, vocal cord rest, and in some cases, surgery.
If you are suffering from a sore throat, raspy voice, or hoarseness, the first step towards feeling better is to schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. Board certified physicians with New York ENT have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of voice-related conditions. Fill out the form on this page or call our office at 212-873-6036 to schedule an appointment today.