Laryngitis occurs when the larynx (voice box) becomes irritated and swollen. It's usually caused by an infection or damage to the larynx.


Viral infections such as a cold or flu are the most common type of infection associated with acute laryngitis.

Rarer types of infection include:

People with weakened immune systems, caused by conditions such as HIV or as a result of chemotherapy or steroid medication, are thought to be most at risk from fungal laryngitis.

Laryngitis caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection is known as infectious laryngitis.

Damage to the larynx

Laryngitis is also often caused by straining your voice, such as speaking or singing for long periods or shouting and singing loudly.

Straining your voice can cause your vocal cords to vibrate at a faster rate than they should. This excessive vibration can damage the surface of your vocal cords, causing them to become inflamed.

Laryngitis caused by damage to the larynx is known as mechanical laryngitis.

Less common causes of mechanical laryngitis include:

  • direct trauma to the larynx – such as a blow to your throat, an accident or a sports injury
  • prolonged coughing
  • persistent and frequent clearing of your throat

Other causes

As well as infection and damage to the larynx, laryngitis can also be caused by:

These causes are most often associated with long-term (chronic) laryngitis.

Page last reviewed: 08/09/2015
Next review due: 01/09/2018