The Significance of Chronic Hoarseness in Adults

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Pain, bodily discomfort, shortness of breath, an overactive heart, swelling of the extremities, chronic fatigue, some form of indigestion, or any symptom or group of symptoms that restrict the normal activities of human beings constitute the chief complaints of patients seeking relief from their medical advisors. Such symptoms always elicit a careful, painstaking examination; on the other hand, the symptom of chronic hoarseness is a very common complaint, but its significance is greatly underestimated by the average practicing physician.

How is the patient who presents himself for the relief of persistent and increasing hoarseness customarily managed? Inquiry is made concerning the general health, the duration of the symptom, and whether the patient has any cough or pain. The patient replies that nothing seems to be wrong except that his voice is not clear and that he has to make a constant effort to speak, whereas formerly he was never conscious of discomfort or of inconvenience. The doctor then takes a tongue spatula and looks into the patient's throat. What does he see? Nothing but a normal or slightly congested throat. He may look carefully at the tonsils, and sometimes he may see what he regards as a possible cause of hoarseness. But the infallible prescription is a gargle or a favorite medicine for colds. Thus the consultation terminates and the patient goes on—sometimes to certain, slow decline and death, just because the doctor was not aware of the many pathological conditions which might be the cause of the hoarseness. . .



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