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The most appropriate treatment for a swollen larynx can range from simple rest to see whether the patient recovers independently to surgery to treat a vocal cord disorder. Patients who notice swelling and symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and coughing might want to see a doctor to discuss the situation and explore possible treatment options. Any case of what appears to be a sore throat or hoarseness that persists for more than a week is a potential cause for concern, and in cases of persistent symptoms, it is important for the patient to see a doctor to make sure that the issue is addressed in a timely fashion.
Patients can develop swelling in the larynx because of infection, irritation, cancer and lesions such as polyps or ulcers caused by severe acid reflux. When a patient goes to the doctor with a swollen larynx, the doctor might conduct a physical examination and could look into the throat to see whether any likely cause is visible. The initial recommendation might be to rest, drink fluids and avoid using his or her voice, to see whether the swelling goes down. If this does not work, or if the doctor suspects that it wouldn't help, more aggressive treatment might be necessary.
In the case of an infection, antibiotics might be provided if bacteria are responsible for the swollen larynx. Anti-inflammatory drugs, including medications that the patient can buy at the drugstore, can help reduce the swelling and make the patient feel more comfortable. The doctor might also recommend continuing to hydrate and using a humidifier to increase the humidity in the air. This can keep the larynx hydrated and ease swelling and dryness. It also might cut down on mucus production.
If the cause can be treated surgically, the doctor might discuss some surgical treatment options for a swollen larynx. Growths such as polyps need to be removed, and the patient might need treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation if the growths are cancerous. The doctor might recommend surgery to address other vocal cord and larynx disorders. An ear, nose and throat specialist typically evaluates the patient to determine the best course of action to address the problem.
After a patient receives treatment for a swollen larynx, a recovery period might be necessary. Rest can give the throat a chance to heal, and people who use their voices professionally might need to take some time off from work. A speech-language pathologist can help patients during recovery as they rebuild vocal strength and relearn to speak, if necessary. Some surgeries might change the structure of the larynx, so patients might need an adjustment period to get used to speaking and to acquire greater vocal control.