A sore throat is normally a transient symptom, fading away after a few days. If your sore throat persists and the symptoms become more prolonged, it can be a sign that you are suffering from a more severe illness. Here, Dr. Jen Tan discusses some of the causes of a persistent sore throat, and how these medical conditions can be treated.
A persistent sore throat is one which lasts longer than three or four weeks. If you suffer from a sore throat which persists, you should seek medical attention as it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
This is most common among teenagers and young adults and is caused by a virus called Epstein Barr Virus. Aside from a sore throat, you may also experience a high fever, swollen glands in the neck and extreme fatigue. While in the majority of cases it does not present a serious health risk to the sufferer, it can be unpleasant while it lasts.
Glandular fever is contagious for between 2 and 18 months of experiencing symptoms. It is spread through saliva, coughs and sneezes and sharing eating utensils.
There is no specific cure for glandular fever, although there are treatments which can ease the symptoms you experience. However, once you have experienced one bout of glandular fever you will be unlikely to experience a further one as you will have developed an immunity to the virus.
This is common among young children, although it can affect a person at any age. Most cases of tonsillitis clear up within a few days but this is not always the case. In some people, the infection can return several times a year.
Symptoms of tonsillitis include sore throat, headaches, fevers and coughing. Although in many cases the symptoms are manageable, sometimes a course of antibiotics is needed. If you suffer from severe and recurring episodes of tonsillitis, your doctor may recommend that you have your tonsils removed. This operation was very common 40 or 50 years ago, but is carried out infrequently nowadays.
Laryngitis is inflammation of your larynx (voice box). It causes you to have a persistent sore throat, hoarseness or complete loss of voice. Many people can get rid of their symptoms within a week by resting their voice and taking remedies to soothe their throat. However, sometimes laryngitis can last for several weeks.
Causes of laryngitis can range from overusing your voice, to smoking, to a viral infection. It is important to understand what has caused your bout of laryngitis before it can be treated.
Throat cancer can affect any part of the structures in your throat or mouth. It is a relatively rare form of cancer, but a persistent sore throat can be a sign of the problem. The feeling of a foreign body when you swallow, or lump in the neck or throat, may also be an indication of throat cancer.
Smoking increases the risk of getting throat cancer (as well as other types of cancer), as does excessive alcohol consumption.
If you have been diagnosed with throat cancer your healthcare professional will discuss options for treatments with you.
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On average, you will experience a sore throat 2 or 3 times a year but, if you are lucky, your immune system will be able to conquer the virus before it develops into a full blow episode of the common cold.