When hoarse, the voice may sound raspy, strained, or show changes in volume or pitch. These changes are related to disorders in the vocal folds of the larynx. The most common cause is acute laryngitis or swelling of the vocal folds that can occur during a cold, upper respiratory infection, or from voice strain. Serious injury to the vocal folds may result from strenuous voice use during acute laryngitis. Other causes include vocal cord lesions, reflux, smoking and trauma.
You should see an otolaryngologist if hoarseness lasts longer than three weeks, if you are coughing up blood, have difficulty swallowing, if you experience pain, or if you feel a lump in the neck. The treatment depends upon the cause. Many common causes of hoarseness are treated by resting the voice. If a lesion is identified, surgery may be recommended.Voice therapists can teach patients to alter their methods of speech production to improve the sound of the voice and to resolve problems, such as vocal nodules. Using the voice properly is key in preventing hoarseness.