Is Vocal Fold Swelling and Laryngitis the Same Thing?

Doctor with an actor

Hey Doc, I’ve always wanted to know the difference between vocal fold swelling and laryngitis? Are they the same or different degrees of the same thing?


Well, yes and no. Laryngitis suggests an inflammation of the larynx (as any “-itis ” refers to inflammation such as arthritis or bursitis). It is generally a descriptive term and has come to refer to any inflammatory condition that causes the symptom of hoarseness.

By contrast, vocal fold swelling is a physical sign, one that can be seen on examination. It can be one (but not the only one) of several manifestations of laryngeal inflammation. Other manifestations might be redness, stiffness of the vocal folds, or an exudate (a fluid in an area of inflammation) covering the folds.

Swelling may also occur in the absence of any inflammation, such as with a polyp, nodule or cyst. So the two overlap, but are not synonymous. If that’s more confusing than helpful, consider that both laryngitis and vocal fold swelling can cause hoarseness, but they are not interchangeable terms.

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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