Causes of laryngitis

Acute laryngitis

The causes of acute laryngitis can be either:

  • infection, or
  • damage or trauma to the larynx (sometimes referred to as mechanical laryngitis).

Infectious laryngitis

The most common type of infection associated with acute laryngitis is a viral infection, such as:

Less common viral infections associated with acute laryngitis include:

  • measles,
  • mumps, and
  • the varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes herpes).

Rarer types of infection include:

People with weakened immune systems, due to conditions such as HIV or as a result of treatments such as chemotherapy or steroid medication, are thought to be most at risk from fungal laryngitis.

Mechanical laryngitis

The most common cause of mechanical laryngitis is overuse or misuse of your voice.

Prolonged speaking or singing and very loud shouting or signing can cause your vocal cords to vibrate at a faster rate than they should.

The excessive vibration can damage the surface of your vocal cords, causing them to become inflamed (swollen).

Less common causes of mechanical laryngitis include:

  • direct trauma to the larynx, such as a blow to your throat, an injury sustained during a car accident or a sports injury,
  • chronic coughing, and
  • persistent and frequent clearing of your throat.

Chronic laryngitis

Causes of chronic laryngitis include:

  • Smoking: persistent exposure to tobacco smoke can cause long-term inflammation (swelling) of your larynx.
  • Alcohol misuse: the active ingredient in alcohol (ethanol) contains many impurities that can irritate your larynx.
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD): stomach acid can cause inflammation and irritation of your larynx.
  • Allergic reactions to substances such as dust, fumes, chemicals and toxins.


Chronic usually means a condition that continues for a long time or keeps coming back.
Acute means occurring suddenly or over a short period of time.
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac or cavity in the body.
Benign refers to a condition that should not become life-threatening. In relation to tumours, benign means not cancerous.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and others are good for you.
The sac-like organ of the digestive system. It helps digest food by churning it and mixing it with acids to break it down into smaller pieces.
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. Examples of antibiotics include amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin.
Shock is a short-term state of body weakness that usually happens after an accident or injury. It is caused when there is an insufficient supply of oxygen.
Last updated: 04 October 2011

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