Thursday, September 16, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — At some time, most people "lose their voice" due to a cold or exuberant cheering at a sports event. Symptoms usually improve with home care: plenty of liquids, sucking on hard candy or lozenges, and resting the voice.
But when symptoms last longer than two weeks, hoarseness shouldn't be ignored, according to the September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. The hoarseness could be the result of other health conditions, some of them serious.
The Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers common causes and treatments for hoarseness.
Repeated irritation of the vocal cords: Smoking, repeated overuse of the voice, corticosteroid inhalers used to treat asthma, frequent heartburn, excessive alcohol use or chronic coughing are among the causes of vocal cord irritation. Ongoing irritation can cause sores, callus-like patches on the vocal cords, and sometimes swelling. These conditions often will heal once the source of the irritation is removed. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove anomalies that don't resolve with conservative treatment.
Aging of tissues: Vocal cords lose tension and fullness with aging. Treatment may include injecting a substance into the vocal cords to help restore fullness.
Cancer of the larynx: People over age 60 who smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol are at highest risk for cancer of the larynx. Detected early, vocal cord cancer often can be successfully treated with surgery or radiation.
Complications of other health concerns: Hoarseness can be due to underlying health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Treating the underlying condition may improve hoarseness. When nerves don't recover, surgery can help realign the vocal cords, or injected agents can be used to form more permanent, artificial vocal cords.
Spasm of the vocal cord muscle: Spasms put undue tension on the vocal cords. Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections can help stop muscle spasms. Symptom relief usually lasts three to six months, and treatment needs to be repeated.
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