A description of the medical terms used in or related to this sore throat guide.



Two small lumps of tissue which are located at the back of the nasal cavities. These lumps are comprised of lymphatic tissue and are found above the tonsils.

They are part of the immune system but tend to shrink and disappear over time.


The channel within the body which air goes through in order to pass in and out of the lungs. Air is inhaled through either the mouth or nose and passes down the pharynx, trachea and through the bronchi to the lungs.


An adverse reaction by the body’s immune system to a particular substance, e.g. pollen.

Aplastic anaemia

A very rare disorder in which bone marrow fails to produce blood cells which are needed for normal circulation.


A condition which affects many people that causes swelling and pain in the bones and joints. There are two types of arthritis: rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.



The name given to microscopic organisms which can cause a range of diseases such as strep throat. Many bacteria live inside the body without any ill effects but some are known for causing infectious diseases.


The removal of a small sample of tissue from within the body for further analysis. One example is to check for cancerous cells.


The two large airways which lead from the trachea to the lungs. They help to pass air to and from the lungs.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

An umbrella term which describes a group of diseases that affect the lungs. These include bronchitis and emphysema.


A condition which has developed before or at birth.


Inflammation of the clear membrane (conjunctiva) which covers the eye.


A bacterial or viral infection which affects both the larynx and trachea. This causes a fever, runny nose and a characteristic ‘barking’ cough.



The medical name for a secretion from a part of the body, e.g. salivary glands.



Thin flap of tissue which folds over the larynx to prevent food and liquids from entering the larynx. This is normally upright during breathing but folds over when during digestion.

Epstein-Barr virus

A common virus, present in humans, that causes a range of diseases which include glandular fever.

Eustachian tubes

These tubes connect the pharynx to the middle ear.


None at present.


Gastro-oesophageal reflux

A painful condition in which stomach acid passes back up the oesophagus due to a fault in the lower oesophageal sphincter.

Glandular fever

A viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus which causes a fever, sore throat, swollen glands, headache and a loss of appetite. This virus remains dormant within the person affected for the rest of their life.


An inflammation of the kidneys, often caused by an overactive immune system. There are 7 different varieties of this disease which develop in varying ways.



A common condition caused by stomach acid flowing up the oesophagus. This results in a burning pain behind the breastbone and an acidic taste in the back of the mouth or throat.

Herpes simplex virus

A highly infectious virus which affects the soft membranes of the lips, mouth or genitals. This presents itself as small, itchy or weeping blisters around these areas of the body.

This virus is spread through saliva or sexual contact.


A condition in which there is a shortage of oxygen in the body. This causes rapid breathing, blueness of the skin, lack of co-ordination and fatigue.



A type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is used to treat aches and pains. It can be purchased over the counter at a pharmacist.

Immune system

A complex network within the body which protects it against diseases, infections and foreign bodies.

Isthmus (thyroid)

A bridge of muscle which connects both halves of the thyroid gland.


None at present.


None at present.



A funnel shaped organ which lies between the pharynx and the trachea. It contains the vocal cords. It is also known as the voice box.


The name given to a range of cancers of the blood, e.g. acute myeloid leukaemia.


Motor neurone disease

A progressive, degenerative disease which attacks the muscles within the body leading to eventual respiratory failure.

Multiple sclerosis

A neurological disorder which causes scars to form within the brain and spinal cord. This occurs due to damage caused to myelin - a protective substance wrapped around nerve fibres within the brain and spinal cord. This affects the ability of the brain to transmit signals to the rest of the body.



Refers to the nose.



The tube which runs from the pharynx at the top of the mouth down to the stomach. Also known as the gullet.



A commonly used painkiller which is used to relieve headaches, aches and pains, and the symptoms of flu. It is available over the counter at a pharmacy.

Parkinson’s disease

A neurological degenerative disease which affects the speech, movement and cognitive functions.


A channel which joins the nasal and mouth cavities to the larynx and oesophagus. It is divided into 3 sections: the nasopharynx, oropharynx and laryngopharynx.



A serious throat infection which is similar to tonsillitis in appearance which has the potential to be life threatening. It takes the form of an abscess on the tonsil which causes pain and swelling around the area.


Reye ’s syndrome

A serious disease which affects several organs within the body but especially the brain and liver. It causes a fatty liver and swelling of the brain.

This disease can occur in children who have been given aspirin to treat a viral infection.

Rheumatic fever

A serious inflammatory disease which can occur following strep throat or scarlet fever. It causes pain in the joints, fever, abdominal pains and inflammation of the heart muscle.


The medical name for irritation and soreness within the nose.


Salivary glands

These are two small glands within the body which produce saliva. There are 3 sets of these glands which lie behind the ear, under the jaw and beneath the tongue.


An inflammation of the soft tissues of the sinuses around the nose and face.

Sleep apnoea

This condition is caused by an interruption to breathing during sleep, caused by a collapse of the muscles of the airway. This causes a series of episodes which disturb sleep and over time, lead to tiredness and depression.

Smoker’s throat

Inflammation of the throat caused by smoking.

Sore throat

An inflammation of the throat.


The name given to a group of bacteria which cause a range of diseases. One group in particular, streptococcus ‘A’ is responsible for strep throat.



The front part of the neck which starts at the rear of the mouth and extends to the trachea. The throat contains the larynx and pharynx and part of the oesophagus.

Throat cancer

The name given to a range of cancers which occur in the mouth, throat and oesophagus.


Large gland situated at the front of the neck which produces hormones. These hormones help to regulate the metabolism.


The characteristic shaped muscle within the mouth which is responsible for taste and helps with the chewing and swallowing of food.


Two small clumps of lymphatic tissue which hang at the back of the throat. These are part of the immune system and help to fight off germs and viruses.


Inflammation of the tonsils.


The tube which joins the pharynx to the lungs. Also known as the windpipe. This tube is comprised of concentric rings of cartilage which enable this tube to slightly fold inwards to enable food to pass down and into the oesophagus.


Upper respiratory infection

The name given to any infection which occurs above the lungs. Examples include bronchitis and sinusitis.


Small teardrop shaped piece of tissue which hangs down in the throat, over the tongue.


Vagus nerve

A long nerve which runs from the skull through the chest and into the abdomen. Vagus nerves transmit sensory information from the nervous system into various parts of the body.

Valvular heart disease

A disease which affects one or several heart valves and occurs either at birth or later on in life.


A tiny infectious organism which invades a cell within the body. Once in that ‘host cell’it then starts to multiply and infects other cells surrounding it. This results in an infection.

The cells within the airways, i.e. the throat are particularly susceptible to a viral infection.

Vocal cords

These are two folds of tissue which stretch across the opening to the larynx. They open and close as air is expelled from the lungs. This vibration causes sounds to be produced which are then interpreted as speech.

The vocal cords contract during speech but open again as air is exhaled from the lungs. This air forces them apart and causes vibrations.



Also known as the trachea. The respiratory part of the airway which joins the larynx to the bronchi and lungs.


None at present.


None at present.


None at present.

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