Misuse of the voice – yelling, whispering, excessive throat clearing, general overuse – can cause strained vocal cords. Other causes include benign vocal cord lesions, acid reflux, allergies, smoking, neurological disorders, vocal hemorrhage, thyroid diseases, trauma to the voice box and cancer.
Treatment for hoarseness will vary depending on the underlying cause. Your best course of action, regardless of the condition, is to rest your voice until symptoms recede. Vocal cord lesions (polyps, nodules and cysts) will require surgical removal.
To prevent hoarseness, be careful how you use your voice; avoid speaking too long or too loudly, and keep your vocal cords moist by drinking plenty of liquids. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, both of which dehydrate your body, and stay away from spicy foods. If you smoke, quit! Even secondhand cigarette smoke can cause problems.