Voice strain; Dysphonia; Loss of voice
Hoarseness refers to a difficulty making sounds when trying to speak. Vocal sounds may be weak, breathy, scratchy, or husky, and the pitch or quality of the voice may change.
Hoarseness is most often caused by a problem with the vocal cords. The vocal cords are part of your voice box (larynx) located in the throat. When the vocal cords become inflamed or infected, they swell. This can cause hoarseness.
The most common cause of hoarseness is a cold or throat infection, which most often goes away on its own within 2 weeks.
A rare but serious cause of hoarseness that does not go away in a few weeks is cancer of the voice box.
Hoarseness may be caused by:
Less common causes include:
Things you can do at home to help relieve the problem include:
Call your provider if:
The provider will examine your throat, neck, and mouth and ask you some questions about your symptoms and medical history. These may include:
You may have one or more of the following tests:
Akst L. Hoarseness and laryngitis. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2021. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier 2021:27-32.
Flint PW. Throat disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 401.
Stachler RJ, Francis DO, Schwartz SR, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Hoarseness (Dysphonia) (Update). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;158(1_suppl):S1-S42. PMID: 29494321 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29494321.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 12/31/2020
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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