Throat ulcers

Throat ulcers are both painful and irritating and are often a sign of an underlying condition. We tend to think of ulcers as something which develops inside the mouth or on the tongue but they can occur in the throat as well.

These painful sores at the back of the throat are caused by a variety of conditions which include chicken pox, oral thrush, herpes simplex virus, acid reflux and several forms of syphilis. Untreated tonsillitis accounts for a few rare cases.

Causes of throat ulcers

In most cases throat ulcers are a symptom of a medical condition which requires investigation and treatment.

They are caused by the medical conditions listed above plus:

  • Fungal infections
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia
  • Throat trauma

In some cases throat ulcers have been mistaken for thyroid or hormonal problems or a food allergy.

Symptoms of throat ulcers

These include:

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • White spots or sores at the back of the throat
  • Bad breath
  • Problems with eating or drinking

Throat ulcers can last from a few weeks to several months or more and can reappear – even after treatment.

A crop of throat ulcers will appear as white spots on the tonsils which worsen over time to become grey, pus-filled sores. These sores will excrete pus after a time which leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Treatment for throat ulcers

If you have throat ulcers then see your GP as he/she will investigate these further to see if they are a symptom of a serious illness or disease.

Treatment for these involves antibiotics, avoiding spicy foods and using an antiseptic mouthwash. If throat ulcers are caused by an eating disorder then a programme of treatment will be needed to deal with that.

Anti-inflammatory medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will help. Combine this with rest and plenty of fluids.

Is it possible to prevent throat ulcers?

This is difficult if you are prone to throat infections as they are often a sign of these. But if you can reduce the number of throat infections you have then this will also reduce the risk of throat ulcers. Other ways of reducing this risk include stopping smoking, following a healthy diet and watching your alcohol intake.

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