Almost all of us have suffered a sore throat for a couple of days and found relief with home remedies. However, chronic sore throat is a condition that lasts for a prolonged period of time which requires medical intervention; in certain cases, neglecting it initially might lead to complications. You know it is time to visit a doctor if:
• The soreness does not subside within 5 days
• It is painful and difficult to swallow food and water
• There are swollen lumps in the throat
• Sore throat is accompanied with fever
Being aware of and identifying the causes for chronic sore throat will help you in seeking the right kind of medical aid.
Large cities and industrial towns where the air is polluted with smog and other emissions affect the nasal passage, throat and lungs and is a cause for chronic sore throat among other conditions like coughing, wheezing and chest ache. Regular exposure to second hand smoke also triggers sore throat.
The hot and dry smoke and the harmful chemicals in tobacco irritate the lining membrane of the throat and causes soreness and coughing, which will remain as long as the person continues to smoke. Smoking also damages the immune system and is a risk factor for throat cancer.
A medical professional can provide counselling and rehabilitation to help get rid of the habit.
People tend to breathe through their mouth when they have swollen tonsils or a blocked nose; this usually happens while sleeping. This kind of breathing parches the throat and people wake up with a head ache and soreness. The throat feels normal again on drinking a glass of water; however, one should visit a doctor if it does not go away.
The airborne pollen and dust allergies and sensitivity to certain chemicals trigger sore throat. Such allergies may also cause post nasal drip where the mucus dripping down from the nasal cavity to the throat provokes a recurrent cough.
Commonly known as Heartburn, it is the pumping up of stomach acid into the food pipe due to abnormalities in the stomach muscles. This causes a burning sensation and may trigger a sore throat. Prolonged soreness due to acid reflux can harm the oesophagus leading to complications, if not treated in time.
Viral and Bacterial Infections
Viral infections cause cold and flu along with sore throat that can last for up to a fortnight even after the infection has subsided.
Infectious Mononucleosis is a condition that causes sore throat (among other symptoms) that can last up to 2 months.
Streptococcal sore throat is an infection caused by bacteria and are treated with antibiotics.
Tonsillitis is an infection that causes swelling and soreness of the tonsils; this can be caused by both virus and bacteria. Peritonsillar abscess (tonsillitis caused particularly by bacteria) is when the infection does not fully heal and an abscess filled with pus is formed in the affected area and gradually spreading to the surrounding area.
Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection can affect your throat in case you indulge in oral sex.
Weak Immune system
When the body is unable to fight infections, it will naturally not be able to combat the conditions that result from it. People with illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS, cancer etc. generally have weak immune systems and are vulnerable to chronic sore throat.
Development of cancer in the throat causes soreness. This makes it imperative to consult the doctor when you have chronic sore throat to effectively diagnose and treat the condition. In case of cancer, sore throat is accompanied with other symptoms like:
• Difficulty in breathing
• Difficulty and pain in swallowing
• Lump in the neck
• Persistent cough
• Change in voice/ hoarseness.
Treatment for Chronic sore throat involve medications like antibiotics, anti-allergens and pain relievers. Operative solutions are tonsillectomy, surgery for abscess etc. Cancer may need surgery/radiation/chemotherapy.
In certain cases the treatment of underlying causes will help in soreness subsiding on its own e.g. Acid Reflux, smoking etc. Timely diagnosis and treatment is the key.