Also called the pharynx, the throat is the next destination for food you've eaten. From here, food travels to the esophagus or swallowing tube.
Sore throats can be painful and annoying. Fortunately, most sore throats are caused by a minor illness and go away without medical treatment.
Several conditions can cause a sore throat.
Sore throats may be caused by a viral illness, such as:
- The common cold, the most common type of viral infection.
- Infection of the voice box (laryngitis ).
- Mononucleosis (mono, "the kissing disease"), a viral infection that tends to cause a persistent sore throat.
- Other viral infections, such as mumps, herpangina, or influenza.
- Strep throat, which usually does not occur with congestion or a cough.
- An inflammation or infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis) and sometimes the adenoids (adenoiditis).
- An infection of the tissues around the tonsils (peritonsillar abscess).
- Inflammation of the epiglottis (epiglottitis).
- Inflammation of the uvula (uvulitis).
- In rare cases, a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such asgonorrhea or chlamydia. If you have engaged in high-risk sexual behavior, consider whether you may have gonorrhea or chlamydia. For more information, see the topic Sexually Transmitted Infections.
- Throat irritation from low humidity, smoking, air pollution, yelling, or nasal drainage down the back of the throat (postnasal drip ).
- Breathing through the mouth when you have allergies or a stuffy nose.
- Stomach acid that backs up into the throat, which may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Although GERD often occurs with heartburn, an acid taste in the mouth, or a cough, sometimes a sore throat is the only symptom.
- An injury to the back of the throat, such as a cut or puncture from falling with a pointed object in the mouth.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that causes extreme tiredness.
Because viral illnesses are the most common cause of a sore throat, it is important not to use antibiotics to treat them. Antibiotics do not alter the course of viral infections.