Do you suffer from throat pain sometimes when you wake up in the morning? Have you experienced difficulty swallowing after inflammation of your epiglottis? The reasons for a problem throat are many. Throat ailments have many symptoms, most of which – if identified early – can be treated with simple home remedies. Throat pain ranks higher than blood pressure issues, backaches, and skin conditions according to the National Ambulatory Medical Care survey.1
4 Primary Reasons For Throat Pain
1. Viral Infections
Viral infections such as cold and flu are the most common reasons for throat pain. In fact, throat pain is one of the first symptoms of the onset of a common cold. The infection causes the lymphoid tissue and the larynx to inflate, causing throat pain and a sore throat.
Severe cases of viral infection can lead to laryngitis – inflammation of the vocal cords. This infection too causes pain, itchiness, and dryness of the throat; it also makes your voice hoarse. Other contagious viral infections like mononucleosis, influenza, mumps, or herpangina can also lead to throat pain.
2. Bacterial Infections
Throat pain is also often caused due to bacterial infections such as strep throat and tonsillitis. Strep throat is caused by a Streptococcus bacterial infection and is not accompanied by cold or congestion. Pain caused by it can be quite severe. A person suffering from strep throat may also suffer from loss of appetite, can develop swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and may have trouble swallowing.2
Tonsillitis – a common viral infection that affects the throat – causes inflammation of the tonsils. The symptoms are similar to those of strep throat, including a sore throat, fever, and trouble swallowing.
Similarly, bacterial infections of the tonsils, adenoids, epiglottis, and uvula can also cause throat pain in the respective regions.
3. Injuries And Irritants
Prolonged throat pain is usually caused due to throat passage injuries or foreign substances causing irritation in the region.
Causes Of Throat Irritation And Injuries
(i) Low Humidity And High Altitudes
High altitude translates to low temperatures and a climate that’s generally drier (low humidity). And both of these contribute to throat irritation. A cold environment can cause rhinitis and a sore throat, while low humidity levels can cause sick building syndrome symptoms to intensify. A study has shown that low temperatures and low humidity can both increase the risk of a sore throat and, hence, throat pain.
Smoke, in general, is a proven irritant; it is known that exposure to smoke – especially cigarette/tobacco smoke – can result in a sore throat, throat pain, and other severe disorders.
(iii) Inhalation Of Toxic Air
Pollutants in the air such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, and other suspended particles are a major cause of throat ailments (including throat pain) across the world.
(iv) Nasal Drainage
Nasal drainage down the back of the throat is also a major cause of throat pain.
(v) Breathing Through The Mouth When Exposed To Allergens
This causes your pharyngeal mucosa to dry out, further aggravating sore throat and related symptoms such as throat pain. The effect is the same as that of cold, dry air.
(vi) Cuts Or Punctures From Swallowing A Sharp Object
Any form of physical trauma to the throat can make it hurt. A good example is a postoperative sore throat resulting from the inflammatory response triggered by the insertion of a breathing tube or a laryngeal mask airway.3
4. Strained Vocal Cord
You may have lost your voice and experienced throat pain at least once after cheering for hours while watching sports or at a concert. Your job may also entail talking for long periods. Teachers, corporate trainers, and theater artists commonly face throat pain as their profession demands that they orate loudly day after day.
When you speak loudly for too long, you may end up straining your voice box (resulting in an inflammation of the vocal cord or muscles), which can lead to throat pain. Usually, this inflammation is temporary; the pain and the hoarseness go away once the inflammation subsides. However, continued strain to the vocal cords can cause chronic pain and could permanently alter how you sound.
Watch out for these signs of throat pain. If the throat pain is chronic and hasn’t reduced over a period of two or three days, visit a doctor. Also, ensure that you get plenty of rest to accelerate your recovery.
|↑1||Mclemore, Tommy, and James Delozier. “National ambulatory medical care survey.” (1985).|
|↑2||Worried your sore throat may be strep? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||Renner, Bertold, Christian A. Mueller, and Adrian Shephard. “Environmental and non-infectious factors in the aetiology of pharyngitis (sore throat).” Inflammation Research 61, no. 10 (2012): 1041-1052.|