Diagnosing laryngitis 

Laryngitis often gets better without treatment, so you don't usually need to see your GP unless you have particularly severe or long-lasting symptoms.

If you see your GP with laryngitis, they'll discuss with you what could be causing the condition, including:

Your GP may refer you for blood tests and take a throat swab using a small cotton bud on a plastic shaft. This is to check for a possible viral, bacterial or fungal infection.

They may also examine your larynx using a mirror to look for redness or swelling.

Seeing a specialist

If your GP thinks you need to see a specialist, they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for some of the tests described below.

Laryngoscopy

A laryngoscopy is a test that involves examining your larynx using a thin tube containing a camera and light source (endoscope), which can be passed into your throat through either your nose or mouth. This test allows your doctor to assess any damage to your larynx.

Laryngoscopies carried out through the nose are not painful, but it can be uncomfortable and the tube may trigger your gag reflex, which can make you feel like you want to be sick (it's highly unlikely that you actually will be sick). Local anaesthetic can be used to numb your nose and throat, which should help reduce these feelings.

If you're having persistent problems with your voice, you might be asked to talk or sing while your larynx is examined. This may help your doctor determine why you're having problems with your voice.

For laryngoscopies carried out through the mouth, general anaesthetic is used. This means you'll be asleep during the examination. You can often go home on the day you have this procedure, although an overnight stay in hospital is sometimes recommended.

Testing for laryngeal cancer

Your ENT specialist may also want to make sure your symptoms aren't the result of laryngeal cancer

Alcohol and tobacco are the two main things that can increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer. The more you drink or smoke, the higher your risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

Laryngeal cancer is uncommon, but it's important to confirm it or rule it out quickly because the sooner laryngeal cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment will be.

Tests your ENT specialist may recommend to check for laryngeal cancer include:

  • computerised tomography (CT) scan – a series of X-rays are taken and assembled by a computer into a more detailed 3D image of your throat
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – strong magnetic fields and radio waves are used to produce detailed scans of the inside of your throat
  • biopsy – where a sample of tissue is taken during a laryngoscopy to check for the presence of cancerous cells

Other tests

Other tests that may also be carried out include:

  • skin allergy test to check whether you have an allergy to certain substances
  • chest and neck X-ray to check for any abnormalities, such as an unusual narrowing or swelling of your larynx

Page last reviewed: 08/09/2015

Next review due: 08/09/2017