Difference between laryngitis and pharyngitis

Laryngitis can also be called “laryngopharyngitis,” and it is characterized by the inflammation of the voice box. Pharyngitis, on the other hand, is a general term that describes the inflammation of the pharynx. Symptoms can include sore throat, cough, and runny nose.

Laryngitis and pharyngitis are different but not unrelated conditions.

Laryngitis is often caused by a viral infection, which is why it can be so acute and short-lived. Pharyngitis, on the other hand, can be caused by bacteria that can cause a more chronic infection.

What causes laryngitis or pharyngitis?

Laryngitis and pharyngitis are usually caused by viruses and bacteria. Some examples of viruses that can be the cause of laryngitis and pharyngitis include:

  • Rhinovirus
  • Herpes simplex
  • Parainfluenza
  • Adenovirus
  • Influenza

Bacteria can also cause laryngitis and pharyngitis, including:

  • Streptococcus
  • Staphylococcus
  • Pneumococcus
  • Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Chlamydia pneumonia

Other causes of laryngitis and pharyngitis include:

  • Allergies, such as hay fever, which can cause swelling in the larynx and pharynx
  • Smoking, which can cause throat irritation
  • An environmental factor, such as a cold or the flu

Laryngitis and pharyngitis are also associated with some illnesses, such as the common cold.

When will I be diagnosed with laryngitis?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam to determine if you have laryngitis or pharyngitis. Your doctor may also order a blood test, which can help rule out other conditions.

Your doctor will likely need to take a throat swab to test for viruses. They may order a chest X-ray to look for possible pneumonia or another respiratory infection.

How is laryngitis or pharyngitis treated?

Your doctor will likely prescribe medication in the form of an antibiotic for laryngitis and a decongestant for pharyngitis.

Antibiotics for laryngitis

Antibiotics are medications that kill bacteria. They are used to treat bacterial infections.

The most common antibiotics used to treat laryngitis are:

  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil)
  • Cefuroxime (Zinacef)
  • Cefotaxime (CTX)

Antibiotics for pharyngitis

Decongestants for pharyngitis

Decongestants are medications that relieve a runny nose and help you breathe easier. Some examples include a nasal spray, tablet, or lozenge.

How can laryngitis or pharyngitis be prevented?

Because the cause of laryngitis and pharyngitis is often a virus or bacterial infection, preventing them is not possible. However, there are some things you can do to prevent laryngitis and pharyngitis by avoiding the following:

  • Avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Avoiding exposure to dust or other irritants

When to see a doctor?

If your symptoms are mild, they may not require a doctor’s visit. But if your symptoms get worse or you develop a fever, you should contact your doctor.

You should also see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Wheezing

How is laryngitis or pharyngitis diagnosed?

To diagnose laryngitis or pharyngitis, your doctor will perform a physical exam. They may also order blood tests to check for the presence of bacteria or a viral infection.

Blood tests that can be used to diagnose laryngitis or pharyngitis include:

  • White blood cell count. This test measures the number of white blood cells in your blood. White blood cells are the body’s first line of defense against infection.
  • C-reactive protein. This test measures the amount of a protein called C-reactive protein. It can help your doctor determine if you have an infection. If you have an infection, your level of C-reactive protein will rise.
  • Throat swab culture. A throat swab culture can help your doctor identify the type of bacteria causing your laryngitis or pharyngitis.

Imaging tests can also be used to diagnose laryngitis or pharyngitis. These tests include:

  • X-ray. This noninvasive test can help your doctor see if a foreign object is stuck in your throat.
  • CT scan. This test can help your doctor see if there is swelling in your larynx or pharynx.
  • MRI scan. This test can show inflammation of the soft tissues between the brain and the back of the throat.

What is the long-term outlook?

Laryngitis and pharyngitis usually go away on their own. But you should contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not go away after a few days
  • Your symptoms get worse
  • You have a fever
  • You develop a cough
  • You have difficulty breathing

If your symptoms get worse or you develop signs of a more serious infection, such as a fever, chills, or a rash, call your doctor.

What is the treatment for laryngitis or pharyngitis?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your laryngitis or pharyngitis. You will usually be prescribed an antibiotic.

Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections.

If you have an infection caused by a bacterium, your doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics that are stronger than those used to treat laryngitis or pharyngitis caused by a virus. Examples of these antibiotics include:

  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil), cefotaxime (CTX), or erythromycin (Ery-Tab)
  • Vancomycin (Vancocin)
  • Linezolid (Zyvox)

Decongestants used to treat pharyngitis can also help relieve your symptoms.

If a bacterial infection is causing your laryngitis or pharyngitis, your doctor will likely prescribe one of the following:

  • Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin (Amoxil), cefuroxime (Zinacef), or cefotaxime (CTX).
  • Antiviral medications, such as acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex).

Your doctor may also prescribe an oral decongestant for pharyngitis.

If your symptoms do not go away after a few days or the discomfort gets worse, you should contact your doctor.

Takeaway

Laryngitis and pharyngititis are common illnesses that can occur at any age. Some people are more likely to develop laryngitis or pharyngitis than others.

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can cause laryngitis or pharyngitis. The most common cause is a viral infection, such as the common cold or a common cold strain.

A bacterial infection, such as strep throat, can cause laryngitis and pharyngititis.

The most serious cause is an infection with bacteria, such as a bacterial sinus infection.

Most cases of laryngitis or pharyngitis will resolve on their own. However, if you have severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing, a fever, or a rash, call your doctor right away

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