Sore throat is the last thing in the world that anyone would like to have. The itch, burning sensation, tenderness and the discomfort it causes is enough to ruin your spirits. Sore throat leaves you feeling debilitated all day long. It is one of the prime reasons for frequent trips to doctor’s clinic and sick leaves from work. Sore throat is a symptom of a variety of medical conditions. It is necessary to probe into the causes and risk factors that increase your chances of getting a sore throat. Let us now discuss the reasons why you may get a sore throat.
1. Viral infection
Viral infection is the primary and most common reason why you get a sore throat. Most of the time viral sore throat is accompanied with flu-like symptoms.
- Common cold caused due to infection from Coronavirus or Rhinovirus gives you a runny and stuffed nose and a painful throat.
- Infection caused by Adenovirus and Parainfluenza virus is very common. It results into inflammation of pharynx, larynx and tonsils.
- Herpes simplex caused by herpes simplex virus is a condition wherein the patient has blisters and sores in the nasal mucosa, mouth and throat.
- Apart from these, there is Epstein-Barr virus that causes glandular fever or mononucleosis. Mono is characterized by swollen lymph nodes, swollen tonsils and a nasty sore throat. A person suffering from mono experiences difficulty in breathing and swallowing sputum or food.
2. Bacterial infection
- Out throat is susceptible to a number of bacterial infections. Streptococcal pharyngitis or strep throat is a medical condition that is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. It is characterized by sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, and high fever and chills. This is the most common bacterial infection that results into a sore throat. Close contact with the patient must be avoided since the infection is highly contagious.
- The chances of getting infected by Corynebacterium diphtheriae are very thin. However, in the eastern parts of Europe an increasing number of people are falling prey to this deadly bacterium every year. It causes infection of the upper respiratory tract which is known as Diphtheria. The patient exhibits symptoms like fever, chills, cough, lesions on skin, and swollen neck. The swelling in the neck is acute and very painful. There is difficulty in breathing, speaking and swallowing.
- Sore throat may be caused because of complications arising out of incomplete treatment of acute tonsillitis. Complications like development of PTS, i.e., Peritonsillar Abscess may crop up. PTA consists of production and accumulation of pus around the tonsils. It causes severe one-sided pain in the ear and throat due to which the patient cannot breathe, swallow or speak properly.
- Uvulitis refers to the inflammation of the uvula and is generally prevalent among children. Uvulitis may occur due to bacterial infection or trauma. Heamophilus influenzae type B, Streptococcus pyogenes, or Fusobacterium nucleatum could be the culprits behind the swollen and painful uvula in your child.
- Sore throat caused due to sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia may be extremely rare but not non-existent. When the bacteria Chlamydia thracomatis successfully breeds in the hostile environment of the throat, it can cause inflammation of the pharynx.
- Oral candidiasis or oral thrush commonly caused by Candida albicans is a very superficial and localized yeast infection of the mucous membranes in the mouth. It is normally seen in babies. It may also infect adults and cause infection in the mouth as well as throat. The infection seen in adults is named as ‘Candidosis’. It may also attack the respiratory tract causing infection in the bronchi. It is called as ‘broncho-candidiasis’. All these types of infections cause irritation of the throat.
4. The non-infectious causes
Sore throat may be a result of pharyngitis caused by mechanical or chemical reasons, as explained below.
4.1. Humidity level
The preferred level of humidity in the atmosphere is 35% to 50%. Inappropriate level of humidity in the atmosphere can trigger illnesses of the respiratory tract. Low humidity sucks out the moisture from the tissues of nose, mouth and throat. This initiates irritation and itching in the throat.
High humidity aggravates the symptoms of asthma and sinusitis, pharyngitis being one of symptom.
4.2. Exposure to irritants
Exposure to irritants like pollution, cigarette smoke, dust and pollen can trigger respiratory ailments.
4.3. Thermal irritants
Swallowing food or liquid that is very hot or very cold can damage the tissues in your throat. It produces a burning sensation in your throat.
4.4. Heamatological disorders
People suffering from heamatological disorders like leukemia and aplastic anemia experience ulcers of the mouth and throat.
GERD stands for Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease. It is characterized by reflux of food and stomach acids into the esophagus. It is caused due to improper closure or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscular valve located at the opening of the stomach.
The stomach acids cause irritation, inflammation and formation of sores in the esophagus, causing you to experience sore throat.
Having been discussed the reasons we get a sore throat, let us now elaborate the risk factors that increase our chances of getting one.
Children and teenagers are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses. The degree of pain in the throat experienced by them is higher than that in adults. Older people easily catch cold because of low-immunity. No wonder why it usually advances into serious ailments like tuberculosis.
2. Chemical irritants
Particulate matter present in the smoke from combustion of coal, petrol, diesel etc cause irritation of throat.
3. Pre-existing medical conditions
People suffering from asthma and sinusitis are at an increased risk of getting viral and bacterial sore throat. People with poorly-managed diabetes can easily contract fungal infections like Candidosis due to lowered immunity.
Tumors of the tongue, pharynx and larynx are generally associated with smoking and alcoholism. Such tumors cause sore throat and radiating pain in the ears.
5. Compromised immunity
People with HIV have suppressed immunity and low level of resistance. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, malnourished children, pregnant women and people undergoing treatment with steroids are all susceptible to infections of the respiratory tract. Hormonal imbalance and stress are also known to inhibit body’s immune response.
6. Congested living spaces
Viral and bacterial infections tend to spread rapidly in overcrowded places like schools, prisons, hospitals and offices.
7. Proximity to the patients
Close contact with patients suffering from respiratory illnesses or other contagious infections can spread the infection to other people, especially by the way of airborne droplets.
Understanding the causes of getting a sore throat and the associated risk factors is necessary for effective and timely treatment of the underlying medical condition. It is also helpful to avoid getting such throat infections in future.
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