A variety of medicines can have an adverse effect on the voice.  Numerous prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications or remedies can worsen rather than relieve hoarseness and vocal cord inflammation.

Vocal cords and dryness
 Just like your automobile engine, vocal cords function best when they are well lubricated. The vocal cords, when dehydrated, do not vibrate efficiently and cause vocal dysfunction, sore throat, and hoarseness.

Many medications have a drying effect; they include:

  • Decongestants and nose/sinus congestion remedies: 
      Pseudoephedrine and Phenylephrine are present in many cold and sinus prescription and over the counter medicines  -  avoid these as you are able.
  • Antihistamines:
      Present in many traditional and new cold and allergy preparations. Some recent generation medications are less drying but fewer in number - use your pharmacist to guide your choice of these meds. 
  • Diuretics: 
      Commonly are used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) or increase excretion of excess fluid retention in body tissues by increasing urine output. They can also dry out the mucus membranes that line the throat and vocal cords.
  • Other medications that cause dryness:
      Antidepressants, medications for Parkinson"s disease, other neurological diseases, and some cardiovascular (heart) medications.


Vocal cord hoarseness and inflamation
 Commonly used inhalant medications for treating asthma frequently cause hoarseness. The steroid and/or the carrier substance within the inhaled medication device can irritate the vocal cord membranes and cause acute or chronic inflammation. This can also lead to a yeast infection on the vocal cords.
Always rinse your mouth and gargle after using your asthma inhaler unless instructed differently by the manufacturer's printed directions. Also remember to use a spacer between your mouth and device if recommended to do so. Make sure to always follow the manufacturers recommendations and instructions for these medical devices.
If irritation, hoarseness, or sore throat develops after use, see your regular physician or pulmonary doctor. Usually these symptoms can be treated quite easily. If persistent or severe symptoms occur despite treatment, see an ENT physician promptly who can perform an accurate diagnostic in-office videostroboscopic examination of these areas.

Medications implicated in inflammation

  • Muscle relaxants - used for muscle injury or spasm can actually worsen acid reflux and cause vocal cord inflammation and hoarseness by relaxing the sphincter muscles that prevent stomach acid from traveling upward in the esophagus.
  • Antihypertensives - calcium channel blockers, beta blockers (medications used for high blood pressure). 
  • Angiotensin - converting - enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (blood pressure medication) may cause a cough or excess throat clearing in 10 percent of patients.
  • Oral contraceptives - contain estrogen which may cause fluid retention (edema) of the vocal cords.
  • Testosterone and other androgen - like hormones - deepen the voice in female users. Permanent voice change can occur in prolonged use of these medications. 
  • Estrogen replacement meds - used for post menopausal therapy can have a positive or negative effect on the voice due to changes in the mucus membrane that covers the vocal cords .
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) -  may increase chance of vocal cord hemorrhage or polyp formation with prolonged vocal abuse or cough.
  • Thyroid hormone - Inadequate replacement medication levels in patients with hypothyroidism may cause hoarseness.
  • Herbal medications - should be taken with caution as they are not harmless, can interact adversely with other medications, and have unknown side effects that include voice disturbance.


Take Responsibility For Your Voice
 Proper care of the anatomy that produces a normal voice is your responsibility. Professional speakers, singers, and other professions that require prolonged, excessive, or strained vocal use all maintain the quality of their voice instrument as a necessity. However, serious conditions of the vocal cords and larynx, to include cancer, often present with hoarseness before any other sign of a major disease process. Early diagnosisi is critical to allow for curative treatment of these types of malignancies.  Anyone who experiences onset of chronic or severe hoarseness, loss of voice, chronic cough, painful swallowing, or swallowing dysfunction should see an ENT physician like Dr. Sciacca. Our practice has a Speech Language Pathologist (S.L.P.) available for a complete examination, using high definition Videostroboscopy, of all areas related to normal voice production. 


4501 Southlake Pkwy
Suite #200
Hoover, AL 35244