A painful throat can be a sore throat or strep throat. There are similarities and differences between these two conditions. The medical terminology for irritation of the throat is pharyngitis. Pharyngitis is usually caused by inflammation in the tissues of the throat.

The most common cause of irritation in the pharynx is an infection. Occasionally, an injury, tumors or gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause pain in the throat. A painful throat could be a symptom of other diseases such as strep throat.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

The most common cause of sore throat is viral infection. There are a variety of viruses that cause sore throats. Rhinovirus, measles, influenza and other viruses are sources of pharyngitis. Bacteria can also cause inflammation in the throat. Some types of bacterial infection are extremely dangerous such as diphtheria. Oral thrush can also create an inflammation in the throat.

Symptoms of the Sore Throat.

The most common symptoms of sore throats include:

  • A red and swollen throat
  • Painful swallowing of food and liquids
  • Inflamed and swollen tonsils. Tonsils are part of the body’s immune system. When the tonsils are swollen there is often more pain throughout the throat.
  • Congested and painful lungs. The respiratory tract may become infected at the same time.
  • Breathing is often difficult due to congestion in the nasal passages.
  • People may cough frequently to relieve the congestion in the lungs.
  • Fevers are common with sore throats because the immune system is attempting to destroy the virus.

Treatment for Sore Throats.

A physician will prescribe anti-fungal medications for patients with this type of sore throat. Treatment for minor sore throats can be using over-the-counter pain relievers. Pain relievers will often reduce fevers too. If you have influenza, then do not use aspirin. Aspirin can cause a dangerous side-effect condition called Reye’s syndrome when a person has influenza. Many people also use saltwater gargles, throat lozenges and other home remedies for minor sore throats.

What Causes a Strep Throat

Strep throat is a disease that causes a sore throat. It is contagious and can be diagnosed in children, teenagers and adults. Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus. Most people with strep are contagious until they have been on antibiotics 24 – 48 hours.

Symptoms of the Strep Throat.

Symptoms may be mild or severe. You will often start to feel sick about 2 to 5 days after you come in contact with the strep germ.

  • Patients can experience a high fever, chills, vomiting, headache and muscle ache.
  • The most common symptom is the development of pus on the tonsils. Some patients will have a red rash on the palate of the mouth.
  • You will generally feel ill and experience a loss of appetite and even abnormal taste.
  • Some strains of strep throat can lead to a scarlet fever-like rash.

Importance of Getting Examined by Your Physician.

Since there are other causes of sore throat that may have similar symptoms, it is suggested that you ask your healthcare provider to do a test to diagnose strep throat. A throat culture test is used for diagnosing this condition. Your throat will be swabbed with a device. The device is placed in a cup to see if infection grows. If the infection grows, then the patient has strep throat infection. Your physician will then decide whether you need to take antibiotics. Using the antibiotics correctly can prevent complications from this infection.

Individuals with pain in the throat should be examined by a physician to determine the cause of the condition. A physician can recommend an appropriate treatment for the type of sore throat that you have.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP

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