AskDefine | Define pharyngitis

Dictionary Definition

pharyngitis n : inflammation of the fauces and pharynx [syn: sore throat, raw throat]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Inflammation of the pharynx.

Derived terms


inflammation of the pharynx

Extensive Definition

For the noisegrind band, see Sore Throat.
See also Strep throat.
Pharyngitis () is, in most cases, a painful inflammation of the pharynx, and is colloquially referred to as a sore throat. Infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis) and/or larynx (laryngitis) may occur simultaneously.
About 90% of cases are caused by viral infection, with the remainder caused by bacterial infection and, in rare cases, oral thrush (fungal candidiasis e.g. in babies). Some cases of pharyngitis are caused by irritation from elements such as pollutants or chemical substances.


The pharynx is often the first site of infection for many infectious diseases such as the common cold. This is because viruses and bacteria often settle in this part of the body after a person inhales dust or water vapour containing the microorganism. Infection can also arise when a person touches their nose or mouth after having touched an object shared with another person with the disease. The foreign invader reproduces rapidly after settling on the body tissue.

Viral sore throats

These comprise about 90% of all infectious cases and can be a feature of many different types of viral infections.

Bacterial sore throats

Group A streptococcal

see Strep throat The most common bacterial agent is streptococcus. Unlike adenovirus, there tends to be greater generalized symptoms and more signs to find. Typically enlarged and tender lymph glands, with bright red, inflamed, and swollen throat of sudden onset with severe pain (often the patient finds it painful to talk or swallow), the patient may have a high temperature, headache, and aching muscles (myalgia) and joints (arthralgia). White or yellow spots on the back of the throat may be present on exam. These spots may also appear on the tonsils when those glands are involved.
It may be impossible to distinguish between viral and bacterial causes of sore throat.
Coughing is usually absent in strep throat though a dry, nonproductive cough (similar to how a person clears his or her voice) may appear in some patients; in addition coughing may appear when there is co-infection with a virus. A stuffy nose is also considered uncommon and is more likely due to a virus instead of the strep bacteria.
Some immune-system meditated complications may occur:
  • Scarlet fever with its vivid rash, although the milder disease seen after the 1950s suggests that the bacteria may have mutated to less virulent illness and some doctors now call this scarlatina (literally a "little scarlet fever")
  • Historically the most important complication was of the generalized inflammatory disorder of rheumatic fever which could later result in Rheumatic heart disease affecting the valves of the heart. Antibiotics may reduce the incidence of this complication to under one-third.However the incidence of rheumatic fever in developed-regions of the world remains low even though the use of antibiotics has been declining.This may be a result of a change in the prevalence of various strains of bacteria. In underdeveloped regions, untreated streptococcal infection can still give rise to rheumatic heart disease and may be due to environmental factors, or reflect a genetic predisposition of the patient to the disease.
  • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney. It is disputed whether antibiotics might reduce the small risk of this or not.Analgesics are among the most effective, but there are many simple measures that can also be used.

Symptomatic treatments

  • Cayenne pepper is said to provide effective short term relief when mixed with water and gargled.
  • Analgesics such as NSAIDs can help reduce the pain associated with a sore throat.

Remedial and preventive treatments

Performing remedial treatments early when the throat begins to feel scratchy may help keep the infection from spreading to the rest of the throat and back of the mouth, which can result in difficulty in swallowing. Treatment should begin the first or second day of the illness. However, if it is a cold or the flu, the infection may still continue to spread to other areas such as the ears through the eustachian tube (causing an earache) and to the lungs through the trachea (causing a cough). Healthy people who will be in frequent contact with someone with pharyngitis may also try the measures below, of which some can be also be preventive, to help inhibit the start of an infection.
  • The use of antibiotics is a helpful remedial treatment when a bacterial infection is the cause of the sore throat. For viral sore throats, antibiotics have no effect and thus viral sore throats are only treated by controlling or relieving symptoms until the virus runs its course.


pharyngitis in Catalan: Faringitis
pharyngitis in German: Pharyngitis
pharyngitis in Spanish: Faringitis
pharyngitis in French: Pharyngite
pharyngitis in Indonesian: Faringitis
pharyngitis in Italian: Faringite
pharyngitis in Hebrew: דלקת גרון
pharyngitis in Dutch: Keelontsteking
pharyngitis in Portuguese: Faringite
pharyngitis in Russian: Фарингит
pharyngitis in Finnish: Nielutulehdus
pharyngitis in Turkish: Farenjit
pharyngitis in Yiddish: האלז ווייטאג
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