What to do When You Have White Spots on Your Throat
What spots on your throat are typically caused by a build up of white blood cells as a result of infection or other conditions. Here are some first steps to understanding what you see
Causes of White Spots on the Throat & Tongue:
A number of medical conditions can cause white spots on throat. Below are some of the most common causes for these conditions. Rather than prescribe treatments our recommendation is that you see a doctor to help you identify the specific cause, condition and course of treatment.
The telegram is that white spots in your throat should not be taken lightly. It is symptomatic of conditions from an infection to cancer. Here are some of the most common causes and the cautions you should appreciate with any and all of these symptoms.
- Strep Throat
This is the most common cause of white spots in the throat. It afflicts both adults and children. Strep is a contagious disease and often accompanied by a sore throat, fever, difficulty swallowing and general fatigue. If you suspect that you or a family member has Strep see a doctor immediately for a Strep test. If you are positive for Strep they will prescribe an antibiotic that should clear up the condition rather quickly. If left untreated, Strep can lead to Rheumatic Fever and other serious conditions including kidney failure.
Many people have had their tonsils removed as a result of Tonsillitis. In some cases surgery is an over-reaction to a condition that can be treated with antibiotics. In other instances surgery is the only solution. Tonsillitis can be caused by either a bacterial infection or a viral infection. Symptoms are similar to Strep with sore throat plus swollen lymph glands in the neck. Bacterial causes can be treated with antibiotics. Viral conditions often lead to the surgical solution if the condition is recurring.
This is a condition that many people have not heard of before. It’s sometimes referred to as “tonsil stones.” Unlike many bacterial or viral infections tonsil stones are typically the result of calcium deposits. There are a variety of factors that could lead to this condition from mucus to food particles and in some instances the ever present bacterial infection. Typically this condition passes with time, but as we’ll explore later you should ask your doctor to give you an accurate assessment of this type of condition.
- Oral Thrush
Oral Thrush is a yeast infection on the throat. Yeast infections thrive in parts of the body with mucous membranes. It is essentially a fungal infection. The white spots can appear on both the throat and tongue and extend down the throat to the esophagus.
This condition is found in people from infants to adults. It is typically found in individuals with a weak immune system. Nursing mothers can pass this condition onto their babies. If you are diagnosed with this condition and are nursing both you and your baby will require treatment.
- Oral Herpes
Herpes is a virus and incurable. Multiple symptoms can present themselves from blisters on the lips to white spots in the throat. It is typically described as herpes simplex-1 or simplex-2. While it is considered a rare condition and incurable it can be managed.
This is another rare condition that is essentially a yeast infection. Yeast infections are fungal infection. People with weakened immune systems are susceptible to this condition in rare instances. Like many throat conditions it is accompanied by a sore throat and a unique burning sensation. The good news is that most fungal infections like bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.
- Infectious Mononucleosis
Contagious and common, this affliction is common with teens and individuals with compromised immune systems. I endured this condition during my freshman year in college. The white patches in my throat covered the entire back of my throat and I could hardly swallow food or water. It is a common condition with teens and is often associate with behaviors that compromise the immune system such as lack of sleep. The white spots can spread across the back of the throat and cover the tonsils. It is contagious and over time can affect the spleen.
This a serious and pre-cancerous condition. It also presents white spots in the mouth and throat as a symptom. Smoking and tobacco chewing are the biggest risk factors. While most cases are considered benign, any pre-cancerous condition should be taken seriously.
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that can cause trouble breathing, swallowing and fever. Patches of white on the throat, tonsils, pharynx and tongue are a common symptom and can be either white or grey.
- Non-bacterial and Viral Conditions
There are other causes that can lead to white spots on the throat from chemical injuries to an abscess. What’s critical is to tell you doctor when the spots began to form and any possible exposure to chemicals or other medical conditions that may have presented themselves prior to the formation of the spots.
There is also the possibility that a white spot in your throat is a physical object. This happened to me once with a small sliver of rosemary. Rosemary is an herb that is similar to pine needles. The rosemary sliver imbedded itself in the back of my throat and over time the saliva turned it white. The doctor thought it was a pocket of pus that would heal, and it was only after my insistence that he used a hemostat and physically removed the rosemary needle.
Home Remedies for White Spots
Once you have been diagnosed and prescribed a course of treatment your doctor might recommend some simple home remedies to provide some relief. These could include:
- Gargling with salt water of a mouth wash to act as an anti-bacterial/anti-fungal treatment.
- Eating ice cream or drinking milk to coat and soothe the throat.
- Taking an over the counter pain medication and anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen.
- Bed rest
- Avoidance of certain foods that are acidic such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, and the avoidance of coarse foods such as raw vegetables that can irritate the throat and tongue.
See your Doctor!
Regardless of your ability to potentially diagnose the cause of the white spots on your throat or tongue, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. White spots typically are formed by pockets of pus or a collection of white blood cells that have concentrated in an area to fight an infection .
Without proper diagnosis and treatment the infection can spread and the condition can worsen. Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications are the usual form of treatment assuming the cause is bacterial. Viral conditions and others are typically treated symptomatically with efforts made to boost the immune system through rest and proper nutrition.
When you consider the list of possible conditions we reviewed you probably recognize that some of them are life-threatening. Don’t make the assumption that it will get better or go away with time. In fact, even if the spots on your throat or tongue pass, the infection or condition can still be present and worsen.