Inflammation or infection of the throat (pharynx
), usually causing symptoms of sore throat
. Pharyngitis is a common component of upper respiratory tract infection, usually caused by viruses (such as those responsible for the common cold) or by bacterial infections.
Chronic pharyngitis may be caused by heavy smoking or by the “postnasal drip” associated with allergic or other disease of the nose. In immunocompromised, patients, pharyngitis may be caused by thrush or by several species of microorganisms that ordinarily cause no problems in those who are otherwise healthy. Some blood diseases (including leukemia) sometimes cause pharyngitis.
Viral pharyngitis usually resolves spontaneously within a few days. No curative treatment is possible, but the sore throat sometimes may be relieved by gargles containing aspirin or other pain-killing substances. Penicillin and the other antibiotics are of no value in viral infections (but are necessary in streptococcal and other bacterial infections).
Tonsillectomy may be required for severe recurrent pharyngitis involving the tonsils. Culture of microorganisms obtained by means of a throat swab can identify most of the dangerous causes of pharyngitis, but it is not practicable to perform this test on all patients with sore throats.