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, 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.
Less common causes include:
Things you can do at home to help relieve the problem include:
Call your health care provider if:
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:
Voice strain; Dysphonia; Loss of voice
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.
Updated 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.
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