Sore Throat: What Causes Pain on Swallowing?

A sore throat is one of the most common health complaints, particularly during the colder months of the year when respiratory diseases are at their peak. Painful swallowing is relatively common, and people of all ages may experience it.

Difficulty swallowing along with pain is generally a symptom of an infection or an allergic reaction and has many possible causes.

The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu, which normally resolves on its own.

Other causes of a sore throat like strep throat (streptococcal infection), a less common type of a sore throat caused by bacteria might require more complex treatment to prevent complications.

Possible Conditions That Might Cause Pain On Swallowing

  • Strep Throat: Strep throat is a bacterial infection that is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, and causes inflammation and pain in the throat.
  • Tonsillitis: Tonsillitis is a common childhood ailment, and is most often diagnosed in children from preschool age through their midteens. However, it can occur at any age.
  • Acid Reflux and GERD: this happens when stomach contents flow up from the stomach back into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, stomach pain, and burping.
  • Esophagitis: this is the inflammation of the esophagus, and symptoms include a sore throat or heartburn.
  • Oral Thrush: this is an infection caused by the Candida albicans fungus, and is also known as oral candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, or thrush.
  • A sore Throat: Sore throats are a common symptom caused by infections or environmental factors.
  • Esophageal cancer: this can occur when a malignant tumor forms in the lining of the muscular tube that’s responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach.
  • Herpes Esophagitis: this is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), and can result in some chest pain and difficulty swallowing.
  • Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the throat and nose.
  • Temporal Arteritis: Temporal arteritis occurs when the temporal arteries, which supply blood to the head and brain, become swollen, irritated or damaged.

Symptoms Of A Sore Throat

Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause of a sore throat, but they might include:

  • Pain or an irritating sensation in the throat
  • Hoarse or muffled voice
  • Pain that increases with swallowing or talking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
  • Swollen, reddened tonsils
  • White patches or pus on your tonsils

Common infections causing a sore throat might result in other signs and symptoms, like:

  • A headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • A cough
  • A runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Body aches

Causes of Sore Throat

Microbes like Viruses that cause the common cold and flu (influenza) also cause most sore throats. Less often, bacterial infections cause sore throats too.

Viral infections that cause a sore throat include Common cold, flu (influenza), mononucleosis (mono), measles, chickenpox, and Croup, which is a common childhood illness characterized by a harsh, barking cough.

A number of bacterial infections can cause a sore throat too, with the most common being Streptococcus Pyogenes, or group A streptococcus, which causes strep throat.

Other causes of a sore throat include:

  • Allergies: may include Allergies to pet dander, molds, dust and pollen, etc can cause a sore throat.
  • Postnasal drip: postnasal drip can irritate and inflame the throat.
  • Dry air, especially when buildings are heated, can make your throat feel rough and scratchy, particularly in the morning when you wake up.
  • Breathing through your mouth as a result of chronic nasal congestion can cause a dry, sore throat.
  • Irritants or outdoor air pollution can cause throat irritation, while indoor pollution like tobacco smoke or chemicals can also cause a chronic sore throat. Similarly, chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and eating spicy foods also can irritate your throat.
  • Muscle strain of the throat by yelling, such as at a sporting event; talking loudly; or talking for long periods without rest can cause a sore throat.
  • HIV infection might come with a chronic or a recurring sore throat due to a secondary infection, such as a fungal infection called oral thrush and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, a common viral infection that can be serious in people with compromised immune systems. These infections can occur in anyone, but they’re more likely to cause a sore throat and other symptoms in people with weakened immune systems.

Risk factors

Although anyone can get a sore throat, some factors make some people more susceptible. Such factors include:

  • Age: Children and teens are most likely to develop sore throats than adults. Children are also more likely to have strep throat.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke: Smoking and smoke can irritate the throat, and the use of tobacco products also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box.
  • Allergies: Seasonal allergies or allergic reactions to dust, molds or pet increases your chances of developing a sore throat.
  • Exposure to chemical irritants in the air from burning fossil fuels and common household chemicals can cause throat irritation.
  • Chronic or frequent sinus infections can irritate your throat or spread infection.
  • You’re more susceptible to infections in general if you have weakened immunity and your resistance is low.

Next is Prevention, Home Remedies, and Treatment of Sore Throat.


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  1. […] Sore throats can be rough, and of course, if you’re suffering, there’s nothing wrong with a little relief. Honey, warm tea, and cough drops can all calm the throat irritation and inflammation. […]

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