White Patches in the Throat?
Many conditions can cause white patches on your throat. Most aren’t serious.
You may need a prescription from doctor to treat your condition. That’s why seeing your doctor is important.
Keep track of when your patches first appeared and whether they’re improving or getting worse. Also track any other symptoms. That information will help your doctor determine a diagnosis.
Your throat can provide many clues to your overall health. When you have a sore throat, it’s a sign that you may be ill. A mild, short-term irritation could be a symptom of an infection or another condition. Other symptoms that may occur with a sore throat are:
- nasal congestion
- difficulty swallowing
- white patches on your tonsils, which are inside your throat
White patches on the inside of your throat are usually caused by an infection. Your doctor can diagnose the exact cause for these white patches.
What causes the white patches on your throat
Several types of infections may cause white patches on your throat. These include infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
A sore throat could be a sign of a strep throat infection. Some people with this contagious bacterial infection will also have white patches on their tonsils or in their throat. Other symptoms of strep throat include:
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain
- pain when swallowing
- redness and swelling of your throat or tonsils
- swollen neck glands
- Infectious mononucleosis
This highly contagious viral infection, also called mono, can cause white patches on your tonsils and in your throat. Additional symptoms of mono include:
- enlarged tonsils
- sore throat
- swollen lymph glands
- Oropharyngeal candidiasis
Oropharyngeal candidiasis, or oral thrush, is a yeast or fungal infection of your mouth and throat. It can cause white patches in these locations. Thrush is more common in babies, as well as people with weak immune systems. Additional symptoms include:
- sore throat
- pain when swallowing
- Oral and genital herpes
Oral herpes (HSV-1) is a common viral infection. It can spread through kissing, oral sex, or sharing utensils or cups with an infected person. Genital herpes (HSV-2) is an infection that’s spread through sexual contact.
The most common symptom of oral herpes is a sore on your lip. The most common symptom of genital herpes is a sore in your genital area. Both infections may occur without symptoms.
Both types of herpes can cause sores and white patches to appear on your throat and tonsils. Some additional symptoms are more common with the first episode of an infection, and may include:
- tingling or itching in the area of your sores
- flu-like symptoms
- sore throat
- urinary symptoms (HSV-2)
What to expect when you visit your doctor
When you notice your patches aren’t disappearing on their own, make an appointment to see your doctor, even if the patches aren’t causing discomfort.
Diagnosis may be as simple as your doctor taking a look at your throat and doing a brief physical examination. This may include asking questions about your personal health and any symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
Your doctor may order lab tests including blood tests and cultures. Figuring out what’s responsible will help your doctor prescribe the right medication for you.
Treatment for white patches on your throat
Depending on the cause of your white patches, you may not need treatment. For example, if a virus is responsible, the patches should clear up on their own. If the patches are caused by a bacterial or yeast infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Treating strep throat
Strep throat can only be diagnosed with a throat culture. If you have strep throat, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic medication. In addition, your doctor may suggest you take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), to help reduce pain, swelling, and fever.
Untreated strep may lead to serious complications like acute rheumatic fever or peritonsillar abscess.
Treatment of mono focuses on reducing symptoms. Secondary infections may require antibiotics. Get plenty of rest and use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as those used for strep throat, to relieve headache, fever, or sore throat. Your doctor may prescribe oral steroid medicine if symptoms are severe.
Treating oral thrush
To treat oral thrush, your doctor will likely prescribe an antifungal that you’ll need to swish around your mouth and then swallow. Nystatin is commonly prescribed. Oral medication, like fluconazole (Diflucan) or itraconazole (Sporanox), may also be used.
Babies with oral thrush can be treated using liquid antifungal medication. Doctors may also recommend nursing mothers apply antifungal creams to their nipples and areolae before feeding such babies.
Treating oral and genital herpes
Herpes has no cure. Anti-viral medications, like acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir, (Valtrex), or famciclovir (Famvir) may be prescribed. Topical anesthetics may help lessen throat pain. Lidocaine (LMX 4, LMX 5, AneCream, RectiCare, RectaSmoothe) is one of them.
White patches on throat: Complications
Complications of white patches on throat are linked to their underlying cause. Some potential complications include rheumatic fever, which is a complication of strep throat, sepsis, severe difficulty breathing, sudden swelling of the tongue or throat, and vomiting.
It’s always important to have your white patches on throat checked by your doctor to determine the underlying cause, so you can receive the appropriate treatment to avoid complications.