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Sore Throat

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Definition of a sore throat

A sore throat is a discomfort or pain in the throat area, which is typically worsened by swallowing. The underlying cause of a sore throat is most frequently due to an infectious inflammatory process of the pharynx, tonsils, or larynx (hence the terms pharyngitis, tonsillitis and laryngitis). Though this particular symptom can be present in many different medical conditions, it is most often experienced during an upper respiratory infection (a "cold"). Viruses cause the vast majority of cases of sore throat, and individuals generally improve with expectant management and symptomatic treatment. In certain cases, however, sore throat can be caused by infectious agents (such as bacteria) that require a different treatment approach.

What is the difference between sore throat and strep throat?

Sore throat is a generic term used to describe the symptom of discomfort and pain in the throat area. It does not specify the underlying cause.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils that causes a sore throat. It is important to note that not all cases of sore throat are necessarily strep throat. Strep throat is specifically caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, and there are characteristic signs and symptoms, as well as laboratory testing, that can assist in making this particular diagnosis.

What are the causes of sore throat?

There are several different causes of sore throat, which may include the following:

  • Viral infection: This is by far the most common cause of a sore throat, and there are several different viruses that can lead to the common cold and an upper respiratory infection. Certain viruses such as the influenza virus (influenza, flu), Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis), mumps virus (mumps), parainfluenza virus (croup) and Coxsackie A virus (herpangina) also cause sore throat.
  • Bacterial infection: A less common cause of sore throat, a bacterial infection can lead to strep throat, peritonsillar abscess, retropharyngeal abscess, diphtheria, epiglottitis, and tonsillitis. Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, also can rarely cause a sore throat.
  • Toxins/Irritants: Various substances such a cigarette smoke, air pollution, and noxious airborne chemicals can lead to a sore throat. Medical conditions such as postnasal drip, allergies, cough, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and tumors can cause a sore throat. The intentional or unintentional ingestion of certain substances (for example, bleach) can cause a sore throat.
  • Trauma/Injury: Any direct injury to the throat or neck area can lead to a sore throat. Sometimes, a foreign body (for example, a bone or piece of food) can cause a sore throat. Excessive yelling or screaming can irritate the throat and larynx, also leading to a sore throat.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/18/2013

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/sore_throat_pharyngitis/article.htm

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