Definition

What is laryngopharyngitis?

Laryngopharyngitis is a disease of the upper respiratory tract that produces inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis) and pharynx (pharyngitis) at the same time. The larynx corresponds to the vocal box, where the vocal cords that produce the voice are found. Inflammation of the pharynx corresponds to an inflammation of the fundus of the throat.

It is the most common explanation for a sore throat. Both conditions are usually of viral origin and are very common to occur together.

How common is laryngopharyngitis?

Laryngopharyngitis is common. It commonly affects more females than males. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of laryngopharyngitis?

Symptoms of laryngitis

Laryngitis signs and symptoms can include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Weak voice or voice loss
  • Tickling sensation and rawness of your throat
  • Sore throat
  • Dry throat
  • Dry cough

Symptoms of pharyngitis

The incubation period is typically two to five days. Symptoms that accompany pharyngitis vary depending on the underlying condition.

In addition to a sore, dry, or scratchy throat, a cold or flu may cause:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fever (a low-grade fever with a cold and higher-grade fever with the flu)

In addition to a sore throat, the symptoms of mononucleosis (a form of viral infection that causes pharyngitis) include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Severe fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • General malaise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rash

Strep throat, another type of pharyngitis, can also cause:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Red throat with white or gray patches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Unusual taste in the mouth
  • General malaise

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes laryngopharyngitis?

Causes of laryngitis

Acute laryngitis

Most cases of laryngitis are temporary and improve after the underlying cause gets better. Causes of acute laryngitis include:

  • Viral infections similar to those that cause a cold
  • Vocal strain, caused by yelling or overusing your voice
  • Bacterial infections, such as diphtheria, although this is rare, in large part due to increasing rates of vaccination

Chronic laryngitis

Laryngitis that lasts longer than three weeks is known as chronic laryngitis. This type of laryngitis is generally caused by exposure to irritants over time. Chronic laryngitis can cause vocal cord strain and injuries or growths on the vocal cords (polyps or nodules). These injuries can be caused by:

  • Inhaled irritants, such as chemical fumes, allergens or smoke
  • Acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Habitual overuse of your voice (such as with singers or cheerleaders)
  • Smoking

Less common causes of chronic laryngitis include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Infections with certain parasites

Other causes of chronic hoarseness include:

  • Cancer
  • Vocal cord paralysis, which can result from injury, stroke, a lung tumor or other health conditions
  • Bowing of the vocal cords in old age

Causes of pharyngitis

There are numerous viral and bacterial agents that can cause pharyngitis. They include:

  • Measles
  • Adenovirus, which is one of the causes of the common cold
  • Chickenpox
  • Croup, which is a childhood illness distinguished by a barking cough
  • Whooping cough
  • Group a streptococcus

Viruses are the most common cause of sore throats. Pharyngitis is most commonly caused by viral infections such as the common cold, influenza, or mononucleosis. Viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics, and treatment is only necessary to help relieve symptoms.

Less commonly, pharyngitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections require antibiotics. The most common bacterial infection of the throat is strep throat, which is caused by group A streptococcus. Rare causes of bacterial pharyngitis include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and corynebacterium.

Frequent exposure to colds and flus can increase your risk for pharyngitis. This is especially true for people with jobs in healthcare, allergies, and frequent sinus infections. Exposure to secondhand smoke may also raise your risk.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for laryngopharyngitis?

Risk factors for laryngitis include:

  • Having a respiratory infection, such as a cold, bronchitis or sinusitis
  • Exposure to irritating substances, such as cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol intake, stomach acid or workplace chemicals
  • Overusing your voice, by speaking too much, speaking too loudly, shouting or singing

Risk factors for pharyngitis include:

  • Cold and flu seasons
  • Having close contact with someone who has a sore throat or cold
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Attending daycare or crowded schools

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is laryngopharyngitis diagnosed?

How is laryngitis diagnosed?

The most common sign of laryngitis is hoarseness. Changes in your voice can vary with the degree of infection or irritation, ranging from mild hoarseness to almost total loss of your voice. If you have chronic hoarseness, your doctor may want to listen to your voice and to examine your vocal cords, and he or she may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist (otorhinolaryngologist).

These techniques sometimes are used to help diagnose laryngitis:

  • Your doctor can visually examine your vocal cords in a procedure called laryngoscopy, by using a light and a tiny mirror to look into the back of your throat. Or your doctor may use fiber-optic laryngoscopy. This involves inserting a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) with a tiny camera and light through your nose or mouth and into the back of your throat. Then your doctor can watch the motion of your vocal cords as you speak.
  • If your doctor sees a suspicious area, he or she may do a biopsy — taking a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope.

How is pharyngitis diagnosed?

Physical exam

If you’re experiencing symptoms of pharyngitis, your doctor will look at your throat. They’ll check for any white or gray patches, swelling, and redness. Your doctor may also look in your ears and nose. To check for swollen lymph nodes, they will feel the sides of your neck.

Throat culture

If your doctor suspects that you have strep throat, they will likely take a throat culture. This involves using a cotton swab to take a sample of the secretions from your throat. Most doctors are able to do a rapid strep test in the office. This test will tell your doctor within a few minutes if the test is positive for streptococcus. In some cases, the swab is sent to a lab for further testing and results are not available for at least 24 hours.

Blood tests

If your doctor suspects another cause of your pharyngitis, they may order blood work. A small sample of blood from your arm or hand is drawn and then sent to a lab for testing. This test can determine whether you have mononucleosis. A complete blood count (CBC) test may be done to determine if you have another type of infection.

How is laryngopharyngitis treated?

How is laryngitis treated?

Acute laryngitis often gets better on its own within a week or so. Self-care measures also can help improve symptoms.

Chronic laryngitis treatments are aimed at treating the underlying causes, such as heartburn, smoking or excessive use of alcohol.

Medications used in some cases include:

  • In almost all cases of laryngitis, an antibiotic won’t do any good because the cause is usually viral. But if you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may recommend an antibiotic.
  • Sometimes, corticosteroids can help reduce vocal cord inflammation. However, this treatment is used only when there’s an urgent need to treat laryngitis — for example, when you need to use your voice to sing or give a speech or oral presentation, or in some cases when a toddler has laryngitis associated with croup.

How is pharyngitis treated?

In some cases, medical treatment is necessary for pharyngitis. This is especially the case if it’s caused by a bacterial infection. For such instances, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), amoxicillin and penicillin are the most commonly prescribed treatments for strep throat. It’s important that you take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning or worsening. An entire course of these antibiotics usually lasts 7 to 10 days.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage laryngopharyngitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with laryngopharyngitis :

Home care for laryngitis:

  • Some self-care methods and home treatments may relieve the symptoms of laryngitis and reduce strain on your voice:
  • Breathe moist air. Use a humidifier to keep the air throughout your home or office moist. Inhale steam from a bowl of hot water or a hot shower.
  • Rest your voice as much as possible. Avoid talking or singing too loudly or for too long. If you need to speak before large groups, try to use a microphone or megaphone.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (avoid alcohol and caffeine).
  • Moisten your throat. Try sucking on lozenges, gargling with salt water or chewing a piece of gum.
  • Avoid decongestants. These medications can dry out your throat.
  • Avoid whispering. This puts even more strain on your voice than normal speech does.

Home care for pharyngitis:

If a virus is causing your pharyngitis, home care can help relieve symptoms. Home care includes:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Eating warm broth
  • Gargling with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water)
  • Using a humidifier
  • Resting until you feel better

For pain and fever relief, consider taking over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Throat lozenges may also be helpful in soothing a painful, scratchy throat.

Alternative remedies are sometimes used to treat pharyngitis. However, you should contact your doctor before using them to avoid drug interactions or other health complications. Some of the most commonly used herbs include:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Licorice
  • Marshmallow root
  • Sage
  • Slippery elm

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 7, 2017 | Last Modified: November 7, 2017

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