Does your voice sound rough, scratchy, dry and husky sometimes? You may be having a hoarse voice for the time being.
Hoarseness is also known as dysphonia.
This is a condition whereby your voice temporarily feels rough.
Hence, it only lasts for a little while.
If it persists beyond three weeks, it is time to consult your doctor.
This article discusses the causes, symptoms and treatment of this condition.
Learn below how it can impact your voice and when you should go to a doctor.
What is a Hoarse Voice?
Your voice sounds raspy, breathy, or husky due to a dry or scratchy throat.
It is a temporary change that can weaken the way you speak impeding you from making smooth sounds.
The volume and pitch of your voice can change.
While there can be several reasons behind it, this symptom usually emerges from the vocal cords.
The voice box i.e. the larynx can get inflammation.
Your voice emerges from the vocal cords and larynx.
The vocal cords are two muscles present inside the voice box.
When you speak, your vocal cords vibrate as the air from your lungs reaches the larynx.
It creates sound waves.
When your vocal cords shorten and relax, your voice gets much deeper.
However, it will have a higher pitch when the cords elongate.
Therefore, your voice can sound differently having a low and high register.
It is a temporary condition that will go away in some time.
Though it may be a sign of concern if the hoarseness elongates from 10 days to 3 weeks and beyond.
Hence, it is time to see your doctor, especially when you have other symptoms accompanying it.
Such as feeling pain while speaking, having difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood.
Having a lump in your neck, pain when swallowing and being unable to swallow or losing voice completely for a few days is a cause of concern.
When it comes to children, visit a doctor when the hoarseness persists beyond a week.
If a child also drools along with the hoarseness and shows signs of having difficulty breathing do not wait to go to the doctor.
These symptoms could be indicating a serious medical health problem.
Hence, even if it isn’t an emergency concern, your doctor can cater to it and look into your problem.
What Causes Hoarseness?
Some causes behind the condition can be totally harmless.
For instance, your voice may become hoarse after you spoke a lot or use your voice a lot in general.
Singing a lot, speaking more, cheering loudly, or usually speaking in a way that has a higher pitch or a lower one than you can get hoarseness.
Over time your vocal cords also get limp and thin.
Hence, as you age, it is completely fine if you are experiencing hoarseness.
Though it can also result from other medical conditions and can be a symptom of some. Such as:
- acid reflux– the stomach acid usually goes up to the throat but it can also sometimes reach the vocal folds causing laryngopharyngeal reflux
- neurological disease such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease- these affect your brain and the muscles that control the larynx movement
- cold or sinus infection- it causes temporary hoarseness that goes away in a week
- smoking tobacco
- coughing a lot
- drinking caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks
- having allergies – this results in laryngitis where vocal folds temporarily swell from an upper respiratory infection and cold
There are also some rare reasons behind hoarseness:
- Vocal fold hemorrhage- the voice disappears or you cannot sing. The blood vessel present in the vocal fold ruptures causing the issue.
- Having vocal fold paralysis- one or the other vocal fold does not work properly. They do open or close properly. It can happen due to injury, lung cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, thyroid cancer or other diseases.
- Hoarseness that lasts beyond 3 weeks may be a symptom of laryngeal cancer.
- Formation of nodules, cysts and polyps. Too much pressure or friction forms them.
- poor function of the thyroid gland
- damage to throat due to a breathing tube
- excess muscle tension in and around voice box causing muscle tension dysphonia
Besides all of these conditions, Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis causing noncancerous tumors, thoracic aortic aneurysm and male adolescence as the voice starts to deepen is also behind hoarseness.
Since it is a symptom of several conditions, your doctor may want to conduct tests to eliminate the possibility of a serious disease.
If you are first feeling difficulty while breathing, your doctor will first aim to treat your breathing.
A mask or a breathing tube may help you to breathe again properly.
After that, they will ask about the frequency and duration of your symptoms along with the strength of your voice.
Moving on from history, they may ask about other symptoms, such as fatigue, fever and those that worsen your condition.
They will also ask about your lifestyle such as whether you smoke or not, have an upper respiratory infection, do you drink alcohol and for how long have you been smoking and drinking.
It is also time to examine your throat using a mirror and light to check for abnormalities, cysts and inflammation.
They will also check for lumps, and examine through a laryngoscope. However, if there is any cause of concern then your ENT will suggest getting a CT scan or an MRI.
The ENT may also take a throat culture for a biopsy or take X-rays of your throat.
As your doctor seems fit, they may run a complete blood count.
It can identify your red blood cells, platelets, white blood cells and hemoglobin levels.
After the results for every condition come, your doctor can begin treatment for the problem.
If there is no huge cause behind the hoarseness then you can use remedies to treat it.
However, if it’s a serious case such as cancer, then that may require proper treatment.
Hoarse Voice Remedy and Treatment
- Give your voice some rest. If you are a singer, cheer loudly or talk loudly, it is time to give your vocal cords some rest. Give it a complete rest, do not even whisper as contrary to the popular belief, it strains your vocal cords more.
- Drink fluids such as water and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Water moistens your throat on the other hand alcohol and caffeine dries it out.
- For cold or sinus infections, take your cold medicines for the entire course.
- Use antacids or proton pump inhibitors for GERD.
- Dietary changes and a speech voice pathologist can help with cysts and polyps. Surgery can also help.
- For any cancer, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery and immunotherapy will be required.
- Take a hot shower. It helps to open airways and get rid of decongestion.
- Vocal fold hemorrhage will require voice rest.
- Vocal fold paralysis will need a small procedure by your ENT.
- For muscle tension dysphonia perform voice therapy with a speech-language pathologist.
- A humidifier adds moisture to the air that can open your airways and make it easy to breathe.
- Do not smoke. Smoking will not only irritate your mouth more, but it will also dry it out.
- Surgical procedures are needed to clear any growths such as Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
- Try to moisten your mouth by eating lozenges and chewing gum. It can soothe your throat.
- Remove any allergens in your environment so that there are no allergies.
- Avoid taking decongestants for your throat as they further dry down the throat.
Try taking these home remedies first.
However, if the hoarseness does not settle down then go to see your doctor.
Chronic hoarseness may suggest a more problematic condition.
Treating and identifying it immediately can prevent the condition from worsening.
Prevention for Hoarse Voice
Did you know you can prevent having a hoarse voice too?
This requires protecting your vocal cords from damage.
If you use your voice for singing, cheering or other professional reasons, there is a higher risk of hoarseness.
Do not drink fluids that cause dehydration
Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
They function as diuretics, making your mouth drier and you lose water instead.
Rather drink more water.
Do not smoke or even inhale secondhand smoke
Inhaling smoke can also affect your larynx as smoking does.
It irritates vocal cords and dries out the throat.
Drink water frequently
Reduce dehydration by consuming more water whenever possible.
At least drink around 8 glasses a day.
Wash Hands Often
Hand hygiene is important to keep bacteria, viruses and germs away.
A viral respiratory tract infection can result from germs and viruses that spread through your hands.
Use a humidifier
A humidifier can help to moisten the air so that the throat is no longer dry.
Do Not Eat spicy foods
Spicy foods can irritate your mouth and hurt your throat.
Therefore, avoid any spicy foods.
Do not clear your throat
This increases irritation in your throat and results in inflammation of vocal cords.
Besides these, do not use your voice for a long time, that too loudly.
You can prevent and treat a hoarse voice.
However, you should not tolerate it for too long as it can be a serious issue.