Expert Q&A: Raspy Voices and RA

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause hoarse voices and trouble swallowing. Here’s what to do. 

Question: Lately, my voice has been raspy and hoarse, but it doesn’t seem to be related to a cold. Could it have something to do with RA?

Answer: It is possible. Hoarseness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be related to inflammation of the cricoarytenoid joints, which sit adjacent to the vocal cords and help open and close them when you speak or breathe.  Hoarseness may be accompanied by swallowing issues. However, this condition is quite uncommon nowadays, and the diagnosis is usually limited to people with longstanding disease – it would be extremely rare in someone with a mild form of RA. I would recommend you discuss this with your rheumatologist and an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. Together they can make a diagnosis and determine any needed treatment.

Simon Helfgott, MD

Rheumatologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Boston

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