Sore Throat

Sore Throat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Sore throat is a viral infection that causes severe pain, irritation, and stretchiness in the throat. The throat becomes swollen, and a person feels difficulty in normal breathing and swallowing food caused by bacteria, cold, and flu. Mostly, it can cure on its own over time, though simple home remedies also give comfort to this problem. While it requires proper check-ups and medication in severe cases.

 Types:

It is categorized into the following types based on its symptoms:

  • Pharyngitis: It affects the back area of the mouth. The pharynx becomes inflamed and creates difficulty in swallowing the food.
  • Tonsillitis: The soft tissues in the back of the throat called tonsils become red and swell.
  • Laryngitis: The larynx is a voice box in the back of the throat that becomes red and swallowed. A person feels irritated by it, and the voice may disappear for a short time.

Strep throat:

It is a viral infection that makes your throat scratchy, swallow, tender, and extremely painful caused by the bacteria  ‘Streptococcus Pyogenes’.

 Causes:

There are many causes of sore throat. Some of them are listed below:

  • Bacterial and viral infections: About 90 percent of sore throat is caused by viruses and bacteria. Common cold, influenza, chickenpox, measles, mononucleosis, and COVID-19 are the common viral infections that sore the throat. Among the bacterial infections, the most communal cause is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus). This infection swells the tonsils and causes severe pain in the neck area.
  • Allergies: Allergy is triggered by dust, pollen grains, pet dander, and molds that can lead to continuous sneezing, producing water in the eyes. This condition congested the nasal. Due to these allergies, extra mucus builds in the throat, irritating and creating inflammation. This condition is called postnasal drip. This problem may get worse with time if not treated in time.
  • Dryness: In winters, the air becomes dry, making the throat rough and scratchy. Due to the lack of moisture, the throat becomes sore. Nasal congestion is also the leading cause of dryness in the throat.
  • Air pollutants: Harmful chemicals and irritants like cigarette and tobacco smoke, emitting harmful gases from factories, and cleaning products can cause chronic infection in the throat. Moreover, eating spicy food and drinking litmus juices can become reasons for soreness in the throat.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD):  It is a digestive system disorder in which the stomach backs up its gastric juice and acid in the esophagus. This acid or juice burns up the esophagus and leaves a sore throat. Common symptoms of this disease are heartburn and the regurgitation of stomach juice into the throat.
  • Tumors: The cancer of the throat and larynx is also a cause of sore throat. Common signs of having a tumor in the throat are neck pain, swelling, blood in saliva, or a lump in the throat.
  • Injuries: Any neck injury like a cut on the neck or hitting by something hard can cause sore throat. Vocal cords become swell by continuous loud talking, singing, and yelling. 

 Symptoms:

Depending on the cause of sore throat, sore throat symptoms can be mild or severe. Here are some common symptoms;

  • Throat pain
  • Feeling of scratchiness
  • Swelling on the neck
  • Difficulty in eating something
  • Swollen tonsils
  • A sensation of burning in the throat
  • Dryness of saliva
  • Coughing
  • Continuous sneezing
  • Sudden vomiting
  • Muffled and hoarse voice
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swelling of neck glands

 Diagnoses:

A doctor will do the following test to diagnose the sore throat:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will do a physical examination by looking at your throat and nose. They can also examine the swelling or lump on the neck by touching your neck glands. Moreover, they can listen to your breathing voice by stethoscope.
  • Swab test: This test can detect bacterial infection of the throat. In this test, the doctor directs the tube in the back of the throat to collect the secretion and then sends the sample to the lab for testing. The doctor can get the results in a few minutes. If the test result is negative, the doctor will send the sample to a lab for a throat culture test to detect whether the bacteria is growing over time.
  • EBV test: The doctor can recommend further blood tests if they suspect EBV.
  • Molecular test: This test detects streptococcal bacteria in the throat. In this test, the doctor directs the sterile swab to the back of the throat and collects the sample. The sample is then sent to the lab for further testing.

Treatment:

These are the following ways to treat sore throat:

  • Medication: If you are suffering from some bacterial and viral infection, the doctor can prescribe acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen to relieve the pain from sore throat. You can also buy cough syrups or anti-septics like phenol or menthol. Your doctor can also ask you to complete the full antibiotics course.
  • Rest: if you are feeling any symptoms of a sore throat, then you need to take plenty of rest. Give your voice a rest too.
  • Drinking fluids: Drinking fluids can prevent dehydration and provide moisture to your throat. Herbal green tea can be helpful.
  • Avoiding irritants: Avoid going near smoke and chemicals to prevent irritation.
  • Gargling with salt water: Mix 1-2 spoons of salt in a full glass of water. Then gargle with saltwater daily in the morning before having breakfast can ease the pain of sore throat.
  • Zinc lozenges: Taking a high dose of zinc tablets can cure the sore throat quickly. Zinc can also interact with antibiotics and other drugs to react more effectively.

 Risk Factors:

These factors make your sore throat more vulnerable;

  • Age: Children and older adults have more chances of getting viral and bacterial infections, the leading cause of sore throat.
  • Immunity weakness: The weakness in immunity increases the risk factor of having a sore throat. The body’s defense system becomes weak, and it can get the disease quickly. HIV infection, diabetes, cancer, and heavy drugs are the common causes of weak immunity.
  • Allergy: Seasonal and environmental allergies increase the risk of having a sore throat.
  • Irritants: Indoor and outdoor chemicals, smoke, and irritants also increase the risk of developing a sore throat.
  • Congested areas: People living in closed and congested areas are more likely to develop a sore throat. The fresh air cannot pass through these areas, and they have to breathe in the same polluted air, which increases their risk factor.

 Complications:

If the sore throat is not treated on time, you can feel various complications;

  • Continuous pain in your throat can create discomfort. It can spoil your mood, or you can face sleeplessness.
  • Dehydration or difficulty swallowing can make you weak with time as you do not have enough food or nutrients to get strength.
  • Allergies can make you develop other diseases if not treated on time. These allergies cause asthma which blocks the airways, and the person feels difficulty breathing.
  • Epiglottitis can swell the cartilage of your throat, and it requires emergency treatment.

References:

  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20351635 retrieved on April 01, 2022. 
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/sore-throat retrieved on April 01, 2022. 
  • https://www.verywellhealth.com/symptoms-of-sore-throat-770767 retrieved on April 01, 2022. 
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311449 retrieved on April 01, 2022.
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