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  1. Health Library

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    Head & Neck Surgery

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Hoarseness

Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Voice strain; Dysphonia; Loss of voice

Considerations

Hoarseness is most often caused by a problem with the vocal cords, which are part of your voice box (larynx) 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 sinus infection, which usually goes away on its own
within 2 weeks.

Another rare, but serious cause of hoarseness that does not go away in a few weeks is cancer of the voice box.

Causes

Less common causes include:

          

Home Care

Hoarseness may be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Rest and time may improve hoarseness. Hoarseness that continues for weeks or months should be checked by a health care provider.

Things you can do at home to help relieve the problem include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The doctor will examine your throat, neck, and mouth and ask you some questions about your symptoms and medical history, including:

You may have one or more of the following tests:

References

Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. St Louis, Mo; Mosby; 2010.

Feierabend RH, Malik SN. Hoarseness in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80(4)363-370.

Schwartz SR, Cohen SM, Dailey SH. Clinical practice guideline: Hoarseness (Dysphonia).Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 2009;141 (3S2)S1-S31.



 



Review Date: 11/9/2012
Reviewed By: Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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