Causes And Symptoms Of Voice Alteration/Voice Disorders

Hoarseness is an abnormal change in the voice, characterized by difficulty making clear vocal sounds. This alteration – which can occur with various levels of severity, up to the complete loss of the voice (aphonia) – is symptomatic of a pathological process, which develops in the larynx .
Hoarseness is generally considered a benign disorder, typically associated with cough , fever and breathing difficulties . The characteristic lowering of the voice, whether progressive or sudden, is often connected to an inflammatory component affecting the respiratory tract : cold ,laryngitis , pharyngitis or tracheitis . More rarely, the disorder constitutes a signal for more serious diseases, such as bronchitis , pneumonia , asthma or even neoplastic lesions (nodules, polyps , cancer).

 Considerations On Hoarseness

Hoarseness is a condition that represents more of a symptom than a real pathology.
Often, hoarseness is caused by a cold or a sinus infection , conditions that usually resolve spontaneously within two weeks. However, there are also more serious conditions, which cannot be resolved in a few weeks, which may be at the root of the disorder, such as laryngeal cancer . If hoarseness persists, it is therefore advisable to consult a doctor.


Hoarseness is generally secondary to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (cough, cold, flu ) or is caused by vocal abuse, which includes speaking loudly or in an altered manner.
In addition to inflammatory and infectious causes, a series of different factors, some minor and others more serious, can contribute to the onset of the disorder, such as:

  • neuromuscular alterations;
  • systemic pathologies;
  • neoplasms.

Other conditions that can cause or contribute to voice changes include:

  • gastroesophageal reflux ;
  • allergies;
  • inhalation of toxic or throat irritating substances;
  • chronic cough ;
  • excessive consumption of tobacco and alcoholic beverages ;
  • excessive and distorted use of the voice (such as shouting or singing);
  • prolonged crying (in children);
  • inflammation or infection of the vocal cords;
  • respiratory tract infections: tonsillitis , laryngitis and bronchitis.

Other, less common, causes of hoarseness include:

  • throat injury or irritation caused by tracheal intubation or bronchoscopy procedures ;
  • damage to nerves and muscles caused by trauma or surgery;
  • aerosol therapy with fluticasone : corticosteroid drug for inhalation use , administered for some forms of asthma, which causes a particular chronic laryngitis associated with its prolonged use;
  • foreign objects in the esophagus or trachea ;
  • changes in the larynx during puberty ;
  • hypothyroidism and neoplasms of the thyroid gland ;
  • endocrine dysfunctions;
  • alterations to the vocal cords: malformation, neoformation or thickening;
  • lesions affecting the larynx: dysplasia , papillomatosis, polyps or tumor;
  • squamous cell carcinoma , lung cancer ;
  • superior aortic aneurysm (pathological dilatation of the aorta).

Note. If hoarseness is persistent or chronic, a serious medical condition may be behind its onset. Early intervention can often improve the prognosis. Identifying the cause of your hoarseness can prevent the condition from worsening, allowing you to limit damage to your vocal cords or throat.

Hoarseness can appear together with various symptoms, which vary according to the pathology or conditions that cause it:

  • sore throat ;
  • cough;
  • difficulty swallowing or feeling like you have a lump in your throat;
  • frequent desire to clear the throat;
  • nasal congestion ;
  • white spots covering the tonsils or throat.

Sometimes, the symptoms, which most frequently affect the respiratory system , can involve the organism at a systemic level:

  • localized ear pain ( otalgia );
  • swollen lymph nodes ;
  • fever;
  • heartburn ;
  • balance or coordination disorders.

In some cases, the hoarse voice can occur in association with other symptoms that could indicate a serious condition and should be considered an emergency:

  • chest pain;
  • hemoptysis (emission of blood from the respiratory tract, usually through a cough );
  • respiratory difficulties;
  • persistent lump in the throat;
  • unexplained weight loss .

How To Recognize An Emergency Condition

Hoarseness is NOT typically a medical emergency condition, but can sometimes be linked to some serious conditions. In the event that hoarseness becomes a persistent disorder, lasting 1 week in a child or 2-3 weeks in an adult, it is advisable to consult your doctor.
A sudden inability to speak or string coherent sentences may indicate a serious underlying medical condition.

Contact a doctor if:

  • you experience severe breathing problems or difficulty swallowing ;
  • hoarseness is associated with loss of saliva , especially in young children;
  • the condition occurs in a child less than three months old.
What To Do
Hoarseness can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). With the passage of time and rest, you should see an improvement in symptoms.
If the hoarseness persists for weeks or months, it is advisable to undergo a medical check-up to determine the causes triggering the disorder and identify the most appropriate treatment.
Actions that can help resolve and alleviate the problem are:

  • Rest your voice for a few days. Speak only when necessary. Avoid shouting. Don’t whisper, cry and sing: these are actions that strain the mucous membranes of the vocal cords.
  • Try not to cough or clear your throat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids during the day: hydration helps keep the throat moist and helps lubricate the vocal cords. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol , as they can dry out the throat and prolong healing time.
  • Using a humidifier can help make breathing easier (it adds moisture to the air you breathe).
  • Do warm-up exercises for your voice before straining it or using it for an extended period of time: simply perform a descending scale with different vowel sounds before giving a public speech (and try using a microphone to strain your voice less). voice).
  • Do not smoke , at least until the hoarseness resolves. Smoking irritates the throat, contributing to weakening the voice, as well as representing a non-negligible risk factor for many forms of cancer that affect the airways.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental allergens, dust and irritants. Often, allergic reactions can trigger or worsen hoarseness.
  • Do not use decongestants , as these can irritate or dry out your throat.
  • Take medications to reduce stomach acid if the hoarseness is caused by gastroesophageal reflux .

Similar Posts