Hoarseness is a term used to describe vocal changes, including breathiness, strained speaking, raspy voice, and pitch or volume problems that are usually caused by disorders of the vocal folds. When the vocal folds swell, have lumps on them, or don’t vibrate or open and close properly, these issues can result in hoarseness.

There are several potential causes of hoarseness, including:

  • Acute laryngitis
  • Vocal nodules
  • Laryngopharyngeal Reflux
  • Allergies
  • Thyroid problems
  • Neurological disorders
  • Voice box trauma

Smoking can also trigger hoarseness or aggravate an existing situation.

Hoarseness is usually not serious, but there are times when it is a symptom of a serious condition. You should see a doctor if hoarseness lasts longer than two to three weeks, occurs with pain, difficulty swallowing, a lump in the neck, or coughing up blood, if there is a long-term loss of voice, or if you smoke or have smoked in the past.

Your doctor will determine the cause of your hoarseness and determine treatment based on that cause.