Pharyngitis, or sore throat, is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It often makes it painful to swallow.
Pharyngitis is caused by swelling (inflammation) of the pharynx, which is in the back of the throat, between the tonsils and the voicebox (larynx).
Most sore throats are cauesd by a viral infection, such as the cold or flu. Some viruses can cause specific types of sore throat, such as coxsackie infection or mononucleosis.
Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis include Group A streptococcus, which leads to strep throat in some cases.
Other, less-common bacteria that cause sore throats include corynebacterium, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
Most cases of pharyngitis occur during the colder months. The illness often spreads among family members.
The main symptom is a sore throat.
Other symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and look at your throat.
A rapid test or throat culture to test for strep throat may be done. Other laboratory tests may be done depending on the suspected cause.
Most sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help. Using them to treat viral infections helps strengthen bacteria and make them resistant to antibiotics.
Sore throats should only be treated with antibiotics if a strep test is positive. Strep cannot be accurately diagnosed by symptoms or a physical exam alone. For more information, see: Strep throat
The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:
Complications may include:
Call your health care provider if:
Seek immediate medical care if you have a sore throat and trouble breathing.
Pharyngitis - bacterial; Sore throat
Wessels MR. Streptococcal pharyngitis.N Engl J Med. 2011;364:648-655.
Frye R, Bailey J, Blevins AE. Clinical inquiries. Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? J Fam Pract. 2011 May;60(5):293-4.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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