Hoarseness is a general/non-specific term used to describe abnormal voice changes. The voice may be weak, breathy, raspy, or strained. There may even be an increase in volume or pitch. All of these previous symptoms fall under the general term “dysphonia.” Dysphonia can occur due to several factors, and fortunately, most cases are short-lived and non-life-threatening. If dysphonia persists for longer than two weeks, visiting an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor) is recommended.
An otolaryngologist is the only physician who can examine your larynx (voice box) and render a diagnosis based on your exam. Possible diagnoses include benign or malignant tumors of the vocal cords/voice box, reflux-related inflammatory disease, polyps of the vocal cords, vocal cord nodules due to vocal strain/abuse, infections, and paralysis of the vocal cords, among other issues. Treatment will vary depending on the condition.
Treatment options may include voice rest, voice therapy, lifestyle changes (avoiding tobacco), medications and therapy for reflux-related diseases, and possibly surgery.
According to TPMG otolaryngologist Dr. Eric Simko, most patients are concerned about “throat cancer.” Laryngeal cancer, cancer of the voice box, is most often seen in older men and women. Lifestyle habits – smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, vitamin A deficiency, exposure to asbestos, and poor dental hygiene – can increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
If you are experiencing persistent hoarseness or are interested in learning more, please contact Dr. Simko’s office at (757) 534-7975.
About Dr. Eric J. Simko, MD, FACS, FAAOA
Eric J. Simko, MD, FACS, FAAOA is a board certified otolaryngologist (ENT) practicing at TPMG Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery/ENT, and Allergy in Newport News, VA. His areas of interest include pediatric ear, nose, and throat disorders such as recurrent ear infections, sleep-disordered breathing, thyroid/parathyroid surgery, nasal and sinus problems to include allergy and the treatment of hearing loss.