Commonly known as a sore throat, pharyngitis is usually the result of a viral infection, such as the common cold, or a bacterial infection, most often Streptococcus. Pharyngitis is characterized by rawness, scratchiness, and often swelling in the throat, sometimes accompanied by painful swallowing. On occasion, pharyngitis may be caused by a fungal infection or be a symptom of other diseases. Although usually not serious, pharyngitis that is accompanied by a fever, swollen lymph nodes, a rash, body aches or breathing difficulties should be diagnosed by a physician. Sometimes when a patient has pharyngitis, the tonsils or adenoids are also inflamed.

Symptoms of Pharyngitis

Depending on the cause of the condition, symptoms of pharyngitis may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Painful swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin rash
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Ear pain

Causes of Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is most frequently caused by the common cold or flu. It often occurs seasonally during the colder months, and frequently spreads among family members. Pharyngitis may also be caused by any of the following conditions:

  • Strep throat
  • Oral candidiasis (oral thrush)
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Coxsackie virus
  • Herpes simplex virus, or cold sores
  • Tonsillar abscess
  • Allergic reaction
  • Insect or spider bite

Rarely, pharyngitis may be caused by other bacteria, such as those that cause gonorrhea or chlamydia. In the case of the latter, the bacteria causing the sore throat is not necessarily been sexually transmitted.

Treatment of Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis associated with the common cold requires no treatment other than bed rest, increased fluid intake and over-the-counter analgesics. Hot drinks and lozenges may provide alleviation of symptoms. When pharyngitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic treatment is necessary. A throat culture may be administered to pinpoint the pathogen causing the problem. If the sore throat results from a fungal infection, antifungal medication will be prescribed. Pharyngitis that is resistant to treatment or that becomes chronic requires further investigation, diagnosis and treatment.

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