Ear, Nose & Throat

White spots on throat-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

White spots on throat are mostly caused by mild conditions like bacterial, viral and fungal infections. But, sometimes these white spots on back of throat can also be caused by pre-cancerous conditions like leukoplakia. Leukoplakia can develop into oral cancer if left untreated. So, we need to know about all the different causes of white spots in throat. Come let’s explore them.

White spots on throat causes:

white spots on throat
Image source: scientificamerican.com
  1. Strep throat:

Strep throat is the swelling of the throat or pharynx caused by Group A Beta-hemolytic bacteria called Strep Pyogenes. Strep throat is also called with the name of Strep pharyngitis. It can affect the people of all age groups ranging from kids to adults. But, it is more common among the kids and adolescents from 5 to 15 years of age. It is highly contagious and can spread from one person to another through air droplets from a cough, sneeze, etc.

Symptoms of Strep throat:
  • High fever >101 F
  • Chills or Rigors
  • Red or Erythematous pharynx with white spots on throat over red base
  • A headache or pain in the head
  • Anorexia or loss of appetite
  • Cervical lymphadenopathy or swelling of lymph nodes in the neck
  • Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing
  • Fatigue or Tiredness
Diagnosis of Strep throat:

If your physician suspects that you have a Strep throat, he will perform a rapid Strep test using a cotton swab to collect the sample from the back of the throat. The results of the Rapid Strep test come within 5 to 10 minutes of time. This test is done by the Physician itself in the Physician’s office. If the result of the Rapid Strep test is positive, the treatment of Strep throat is started.

Even if the test is negative, but your physician suspects Strep throat based on the symptoms, your physician might send a sample of your throat swab to outside lab for diagnosis. After few days when the results are available, treatment is started based on the symptoms.

Treatment of Strep throat:

As Strep throat is caused by bacterial infection caused by Strep pyogenes, Strep throat is treated with antibiotics. The most common antibiotics used to treat this infection are Penicillin and penicillin derivative like Amoxicillin. Treatment is given for a period of 5 to 10 days.

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Additionally, you might be given Antipyretics like Paracetamol if you have fever. You also might be given analgesics like Aceclofenac or Diclofenac if you are having severe headache. The infection resolves completely with the antibiotic treatment. If Strep throat is not treated on time, this might lead to Rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever leads to damage of heart layers and it also involves the joints leading to joint pains or arthralgia.

  1. Tonsillitis:

Tonsils are part of your lymphatic system which helps to protect you from infections like bacteria and viruses. They contain many cells of the immune system like T lymphocytes, etc. Tonsils are located on either side of the back of the throat. If these tonsils are inflamed or swollen due to any bacterial or viral infection, it is called Tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, mostly by Streptococcus species. It is also contagious just like Strep throat. It can spread from person to person through air droplets.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis:
  • Fever
  • Chills or rigors
  • A sore throat or pharyngitis
  • Redness of the throat
  • White spots on throat caused by white colored exudates on back of throat
  • Hoarseness of voice or having a coarse or rough voice
  • Difficulty swallowing or dysphagia
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Cervical lymphadenopathy or swelling of lymph nodes in the neck
Treatment of Tonsillitis:

Tonsillitis is also treated with antibiotics like Penicillin or Amoxicillin that help to kill the Streptococcus species of bacteria. You also might be given analgesics like Ibuprofen or Aceclofenac, etc to help relieve a sore throat. You need to take some measures at home to relieve the symptoms of Tonsillitis. You need to inhale the steam, suck some lozenges, avoid smoke or smoking, drink plenty of fluids. These measures also help you get relief from a sore throat.

  1. Oral Thrush:

Oral thrush is the infection of the throat caused by a fungal infection or yeast infection called candida albicans. This oral thrush is more common in infants and kids. It is also more common among adults who are immunocompromised like having Diabetes, HIV, using steroids for prolonged time, using immunosuppressant drugs, pregnant women, etc.

Symptoms of oral thrush:
  • Creamy white spots on throat, inner surface of cheeks, over tongue, etc
  • Pain at the site of white spots in throat and other areas where white patches are present
  • Bleeding at the site of white areas if we try to remove them or scrape them
  • Difficulty in swallowing or dysphagia
  • Cracks at the angle of mouth or corner of mouth
  • Infants with Oral thrush can be very irritable and refuse to take the feeds
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Oral thrush treatment:

Oral Thrush is treated with antifungal medications or drugs given in various forms. You are given Fluconazole tablets of 150 mg which are taken about once every week, for about 2 times. You are given Clotrimazole ointment which needs to be applied over the white spots on back of throat and other areas containing white spots in the mouth. You might also be prescribed mouth washes containing antifungal medications.

  1. Tonsil stones:

Tonsils tones are also known with the name of Tonsilloliths. They are the yellow or white structures which are very hard and they develop within the tonsils which are located on the back of the throat. Tonsil stones are not very common and they develop in people who are suffering from sinusitis for a long time, people who don’t maintain proper oral hygiene, and in people with largely sized tonsils.

Symptoms of Tonsilloliths:
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Halitosis or Bad breath
  • White spots on throat or white spots on tonsils
  • Ear pain or ache
Treatment of Tonsilloliths:

Most of the tonsil stones are harmless and don’t cause any symptoms or complications. but in some people, tonsil stones can cause problems, and they might want to get them treated. People with these problems might be given antibiotics if tonsils are infected. Also, laser therapy or manual removal of the tonsil stones might be used. Also, if the tonsil stones are very large, the entire tonsils might also be removed.

  1. Oral Herpes:

Oral Herpes is caused by Herpes simplex virus or HSV type 1. Sometimes it can also be caused by HSV 2 which usually causes genital Herpes. It can be spread from person t person through kissing, using common items like razors, towels, etc,

Symptoms of Oral Herpes:
  • Blisters or rash over the lips, corners of mouth, gums, and throat
  • Sometimes s they cause white spots on throat if blisters are present over the throat
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Dysphagia
Treatment of oral Herpes:

As it is a viral infection, the people suffering from this problem are treated with antiviral drugs or medications like Acyclovir and Famciclovir. They also might be given analgesics or painkillers like Ibuprofen or Aceclofenac. These people will also have to maintain adequate hydration and take rest to recover from the problem completely.

  1. Leukoplakia:

It is a condition with appearance of thick and white spots on throat and other areas of tongue. Sometimes, these spots or patches appear on the genitalia also. Most of the times, leukoplakia is harmless. But, sometimes it can lead to serious disorders like oral cancer and so it can act as a premalignant condition.

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It can also appear hairy over the spots and it is called hairy leukoplakia. It is diagnosed with biopsy, as biopsy helps in ruling out malignant changes in the lesion. If the white patches on back of throat are small, they are removed using laser therapy or with a sharp scalpel. But, if the spots are large and occupy a large part of the oral cavity, oral surgery might be needed to remove the spots.

  1. Infectious Mononucleosis:

Infectious Mononucleosis is also called kissing disease as it is spread commonly through kissing and air droplets. It is mostly seen in adolescents and young adults. It is a flu like illness caused by EBV or Ebstein Barr viral infection.

Symptoms of Infectious mononucleosis:
  • Cold or a runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches or myalgias
  • Fatigue or Tiredness
  • Cervical lymphadenopathy or swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • White spots in throat or over tonsils
  • Swollen tonsils or tonsillitis
Treatment of Infectious Mononucleosis:

As it is caused by viral infection, the treatment is mainly conservative and aimed at controlling the symptoms. You might be given analgesics to relieve the muscle pains or aches. You can try to inhale steam to ease a sore throat. You can also suck lozenges to ease a sore throat. You need to drink plenty of fluids and take a lot of rest to control your symptoms.

  1. Medications:

Many medications or drugs have different side effects. White spots on throat can also be caused by some drugs. Some examples of such drugs include NSAIDS or Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin.

  1. Chemicals:

Chemical exposure is always harmful. If you are exposed to any harmful chemicals due to your occupation or accidentally, it can lead to formation of white patches or blotches or bumps on the back of your throat. If you happen to get exposed to any chemicals you will need to get treated by your physician immediately.

  1. Abscess in the throat:

If any abscess is formed in the throat due to any infections if bacterial infections, it can also lead to white spots in throat. It will need to be treated with antibiotics, sometimes even intravenous antibiotics. Also, the abscess needs to be drained by your physician.

Most of the causes of the white spots on throat need treatment by your physician. So, whenever you notice any white patches on throat consult your physician promptly for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

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