Hoarseness is a harsh, rough quality to the voice. Hoarseness is caused by an abnormality of the vocal cords, which are paired structures located in the larynx (voice box).
There are numerous causes of hoarseness including infectious laryngitis, vocal cord polyps or cysts, vocal cord nodules, laryngopharyngeal reflux, vocal cord paralysis, vocal cord ulcers, larynx cancer, chemical irritants, age-related changes, and a multitude of neurologic disorders that can affect the voice.
A careful history and physical examination of the head and neck (including the voice box) will be necessary to make the appropriate diagnosis. Often, a fiber optic camera is used to help visualize the larynx and vocal cords.
Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Hoarseness that is accompanied by pain and/or shortness of breath may be a medical emergency.
Hoarseness that persists for longer than 2 weeks should be evaluated by an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist).