Hoarseness is a condition in which your voice takes on an unusually deep quality. It may sound raspy, scratchy, or strained, and display changes in volume or pitch. This is most often the result of injury to the vocal cords, though in some cases can be caused by a medical condition.

Hoarseness: Signs & Causes

Hoarseness occurs when the vocal cords become swollen. This inflammation alters the quality of the voice by affecting the way the vocal cords vibrate to produce sound. It is most often the result of a viral infection such as a cold, which usually disappears on its own within a week or two. Irritation or injury to the vocal cords, caused by overuse or misuse (e.g yelling or singing), is another leading factor. Other causes include allergies, acid reflux, vocal cord nodules or polyps, smoking, acute laryngitis, thyroid conditions, neurological disorders, and cancer.

The main signs and symptoms are a harsh, raspy quality of voice, often developing quickly.

Treatment & Prevention

If you’ve developed acute laryngitis or have injured your vocal cores through misuse, you’ll have to avoid using your voice at all until symptoms improve. Continued use of your voice can cause permanent damage. Besides resting your voice, drink plenty of liquids, stay away from alcohol and caffeine. Avoid cigarettes – even secondhand smoke. If you’ve got vocal cord lesions, those will have to be removed surgically.

Hoarseness can often be prevented by following a few simple steps. Learn how to use your voice properly, and control it; try to avoid yelling and whispering. Don’t speak for long periods of time without taking breaks. Keep your vocal cords moist by staying hydrated with fluids. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.