The larynx, or voice box, sits at the back of the throat, above the windpipe (trachea). It is supported by rings of cartilage, which form the bump of the Adams apple. The vocal cords are stretchy bands of tissue attached to the inside of the larynx. Air passing in and out of the lungs is pushed through these cords. Movements of the cartilage allow the vocal cords to contract or relax, which changes the pitch of sounds. Other body parts that influence the qualities of a persons voice include the nose, mouth, tongue, jaw and throat.
The larynx also contains an important flap or valve called the epiglottis, which covers the trachea whenever we swallow to prevent foods or liquid entering the lungs. Various infections and disorders, such as cancer, can affect the larynx. The usual symptom is hoarseness.
Symptoms of larynx disorders
Symptoms of larynx disorders depend on the cause, but may include:
Acute laryngitis symptoms
Acute laryngitis is characterised by the sudden inflammation of the larynx, caused by a viral infection such as the common cold. Overusing the voice, for example, yelling or singing, or irritation from cigarette smoke can also cause the larynx to redden and swell.
Persistent hoarseness is almost always caused by either irritation from cigarette smoke or voice abuse, such as frequent shouting. Prolonged exposure to air pollutants, such as dust, can also irritate your larynx and cause chronic laryngitis.