Throat Problems

The throat (pharynx) is the passage that leads from the back of the mouth and contains the larynx (voice box) and oesophagus.

Food enters the oesophagus and air passes through the larynx into the lungs via the trachea (windpipe).

The throat is vulnerable to infections and other conditions.

Types of Throat Problems

Sore Throat:

A sore throat is the most common of throat disorders. It is often caused by the common cold. Other conditions that may cause a sore throat include: strep throat infections, tonsillitis, allergies, smoking, drinking alcohol and viral infections.  Patients with a sore throat may experience symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing and breathing. Fever may also be present.

Salt water gargles, drinking lots of fluids, sucking on throat lozenges and hard sweets may help to relieve the discomfort. For a recurrent sore throat antibiotics may be prescribed.

Pharyngitis:

Pharyngitis is the inflammation of the throat (pharynx) and can be caused either by virus, bacteria or allergy. The main symptom is a sore throat but may also include joint and muscle pain, headache, fever, enlarged and tender lymph nodes and skin rashes.

Salt water gargles, sucking on hard sweets and lozenges, paracetamol and drinking lots of fluids may help to relieve the pain.

Tonsillitis:

Tonsillitis is the infection of the tonsils caused by bacteria or viruses. Tonsils are the lymphoid tissue at the back of the throat.  Typical symptoms of tonsillitis are a sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, fever, pain, tenderness in the lymph nodes or glands in the neck and ear pain.

Over the counter pain medication may be recommended to relieve pain and fever. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. Drinking plenty of fluids is always recommended. Gargling with warm salt water may also relieve pain and discomfort.

If there is recurrent tonsillitis, surgery may be recommended and this is a procedure known as tonsillectomy and involves the removal of the tonsils.

Throat Cancer:

Cancers of the throat can involve the pharynx, larynx and the tonsils.  The biggest risk factor for developing throat cancer is smoking and the use of tobacco.  There are other risk factors and these include chronic alcoholism, age, HPV infection (human papillamovirus).

Throat cancer may cause a sore throat that does not go away, a lump that does not heal, ear pain or voice change or hoarseness.

A biopsy will be needed to confirm the presence of cancer as well as other tests.

Treatment includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Surgery may also be required and this is known as laryngectomy. This surgery removes part or all of the larynx (voice box). Therapy is needed after this surgery to help you cope with the difficulties you will experience with speaking, eating and swallowing.

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