Cryptococcus neoformans laryngitis is a rare fungal infection of the larynx. The infection usually occurs as a primary pulmonary infection but can spread to other regions of the body. Common characteristics of cryptococcus neoformans include longstanding hoarseness, sore throat, or edema of the vocal cords. Cryptococcus neoformans laryngitis is treated with oral anti-fungal medications such as fluconazole.
Also known as laryngotracheitis or laryngotracheobronchitis, croup 1 is a primarily pediatric viral disease affecting the larynx and trachea. Though it may resemble a simple cold at first, the infection causes a loud barking cough and stridor (unusual, high-pitched breathing noises indicating partial airway obstruction). The majority of cases are caused by parainfluenza viruses (types 1, 2, and 3) but a variety of other viruses can lead to croup symptoms.
The central problem for patients with croup is the swelling of the subglottic region of the larynx, which is the narrowest part of the airway in children. It can vary in its severity and can last anywhere from three days to two weeks. Most patients do not require hospitalization, as home treatment or prescribed antibiotics or steroids are typically sufficient.
Croup, aka Laryngotracheitis:
- Meyer, Anna. “197. Pediatric Infectious Disease” Cummings Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. Ed. Paul Flint. 6th ed. Vol. 3. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2015. 3045-3054.
A little-known inflammatory condition of the lateral thyrohyoid ligament and nearby tissues in the neck. The connective tissues in this area comprise in practical terms a floating “joint” that attaches the larynx to the hyoid bone. Inflammation of unknown cause can lead to a syndrome similar to tennis elbow, so that the point of attachment becomes chronically sore. Thyrohyoid syndrome is also known as hyoidynia, hyoid bursitis, or lateral thyrohyoid ligament syndrome. 1
A patient with this condition typically (but not always) has a history of placing stress on this connective tissue in his or her profession or activities—trumpet playing, for example. Diagnosis is confirmed with finger or thumb pressure to find a point of acute tenderness over the greater horn of the hyoid bone and sometimes the upper border of the thyroid cartilage. The clinician may find it helpful also, by way of comparison, to apply gentle pressure on the submandibular gland or carotid artery so as to confirm that the point of tenderness is truly greatest at the lateral thyrohyoid ligament, hyoid bone, or thyroid cartilage.
Treatment of thyrohyoid syndrome is typically supportive and may include reduction of percussive or aggressive use of voice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or (by far most effective) an injection of 0.5 ml of Kenalog 40 mg per ml at the lateralmost point of the hyoid and upper border of the thyroid cartilage 2, requiring care and experience, as this is just anterior to the carotid artery. This injection may cause soreness on top of the thyrohyoid syndrome pain for a day or two, followed by considerable, if not complete, relief for about three weeks. After this time, pain may return, though not usually to the original level. In some cases a single injection suffices; in others, a series of three injections, performed three or four weeks apart, is more effective.
- Sinha P, Grindler DJ, Haughey BH. A pain in the neck: lateral thyrohyoid ligament syndrome. Laryngoscope. 2014;124(1):116-8.
- Kunjur J, Brennan PA, Ilankovan V. The use of triamcinolone in thyrohyoid syndrome. British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 2002;40:450-451.
Rheumatoid nodules are white, fibrous submucosal nodules located on the vocal cords. They are sometimes described as “bamboo nodes,” because of the medial to lateral orientation of the submucosal lesion. Rheumatoid nodules in other areas of the body (elbows, knuckles, etc.) are almost always seen in the context of rheumatoid arthritis. In the larynx, they seem to occur with other autoimmune disorders, and sometimes as the first manifestation of an autoimmune disorder, before the patient has any other symptoms besides hoarseness.
The other entity in the differential diagnosis would be an epidermoid cyst, though distinguishing between the two is usually fairly simple on visual criteria alone. The key features for epidermoid cysts is that they are spherical rather than being oriented in a medial-to-lateral direction. If an epidermoid cyst begins to leak its contents, its shape can also become oval or oblong, but the axis of the submucosal white mass is anterior to posterior. Other distinguishing features of rheumatoid nodules are that they are routinely bilateral and sometimes even multiple as seen in some of the photo series below.
Photos of rheumatoid nodules:
Rheumatoid Nodules and Crohn’s Disease
Multiple Rheumatoid Nodules Under 3 Kinds of Light
This Subtle, Submucosal Mass is made more Evident with High Pitch. It is likely a Rheumatoid Nodule
Post-surgical laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx, not from infectious organisms, but from irritation caused by a surgical procedure. By analogy, think of the redness around a knuckle that has an abrasion but is not infected. Post-surgical laryngitis is typically transient and lasts only a few days following surgery. A typical time of recovery after nodule surgery is about four days, which explains why the suggested time of complete silence after surgery is four days, with gradually increasing amounts of voice use beginning on postoperative day four or five.
Inflammation of the vocal cords, especially of the layer just beneath the mucosa, caused by an auto-immune disorder. Auto-immune disorders that can potentially cause laryngitis (albeit infrequently) include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and combined auto-immune disorder. Some individuals develop an inflammatory picture of capillary prominence and mucosal edema which is unrelated to vibratory trauma; that is, these individuals do not have the profile of the “vocal overdoer.” Others form rheumatoid nodules of the vocal cords, aka “bamboo nodes.”
Bacterial laryngitis is an infection of the vocal cord mucosa by bacteria (not a virus or fungal organism). During this infection, mucus produced in the larynx is usually colored yellow, green, or brown. This can occur in any person as an acute, self-limited infection. It typically resolves on its own with supportive measures like hydration and relative voice rest. If the patient’s laryngitis continues unabated more than 5 days or so, or if there is a critical need for voice (such as for an upcoming performance), antibiotics can be prescribed. Definitive resolution of chronic bacterial laryngitis is more difficult.
Chronic Bacterial Laryngitis
Infection or inflammation of the vocal cord mucosa, caused by viral infection. The mucosa becomes pink or red, and the normally thin mucus blanket increases in volume and can become more viscous. If the mucosa becomes sufficiently inflamed and edematous, an individual can lose his or her voice transiently (for one to three days, typically). An analogy for these tissue and secretional changes in the larynx is viral “pink-eye.” For treatment, antibiotics are of no benefit; instead, as the patient waits for the infection to pass, supportive measures such as voice rest and hydration are suggested.
A condition of severe dryness in the larynx, almost always with crusting of mucus. Laryngitis sicca often makes the voice hoarse.
Causes of Laryngitis Sicca:
One cause of laryngitis sicca is the use of radiation therapy for cancer in the larynx. As the radiation therapy kills the tumor it is targeting, it may also damage or destroy the larynx’s mucus-producing glands. These damaged glands may then produce less mucus, and mucus that is more proteinaceous and consequently more viscous or thick and sticky. This viscous mucus can also be easily colonized by bacteria, and become crusted, especially in winter, when humidity indoors is lower.
A second kind of laryngitis sicca seems to accompany bacterial infection alone, apart from any use of radiation therapy. The mucus crusts become yellow or green, and the mucosa reddens with inflammation.
Treatment for laryngitis sicca:
Antibiotic therapy may improve or resolve the problem, though some cases seem stubbornly resistant to such treatment, even with several courses of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Improved hydration of the larynx may help somewhat, as may having the patient learn to irrigate his or her larynx and “gargle” in the larynx.
Pachyderma, caused by laryngitis sicca: Series of 3 photos
Acid reflux and sicca syndrome: Series of 4 photos
Sicca laryngitis with micro-crusts: Series of 3 photos
Inflammation of mucosa caused by cancer-treating radiation. Mucositis is to mucosa as dermatitis is to skin. This inflammation appears reddish with patches of greyish superficial necrosis or ulceration. Typically, radiation mucositis fully resolves four to six weeks after the last radiation treatment.
Laser Removal of Vocal Cord Cancer with Bilateral Disease
For treatment of early vocal cord cancer, both laser excision and radiotherapy are in competition as good treatment modalities. See also Early Vocal Cord Cancer: Remove with a Laser, or Radiate? Often, radiation is used when disease is bilateral, in the interest of preserving voice. This is an example of the ability to do fairly extensive laser surgery bilaterally, yet preserving good voice. This man had a friend who had severe difficulty with radiation, and he was therefore opposed to that option.