What Causes White Spots in the Throat?

Having white spots or patches in your throat can be disconcerting, especially if you are experiencing other symptoms. White areas located in a throat can indicate a number of medical conditions, ranging from the development of oral yeast to bacterial infections. Conditions associated with white spots in the mouth or throat should not be ignored, because they can pose a significant threat. See a doctor if you have these spots in your throat, particularly if you also have a fever.

A sore throat is common in mono and strep infections. (Image: studio_77-28/iStock/Getty Images)

Tonsillitis

The tonsils are tissues located in the back of your throat. These structures are part of your lymphatic system, which helps remove toxins from the body. Normal tonsils are similar in color to your throat, but they can develop white areas if you have tonsillitis. Tonsillitis is simply inflammation of the tonsils. They may be swollen and cause a number of symptoms, including a sore throat, painful swallowing, a stiff neck, headache and a scratchy voice. You may also develop a fever. Antibiotics may be prescribed if your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Repeated episodes of the condition may warrant surgery.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth, caused by fungus. It commonly affects babies, people with poor immune function and those on certain medications. It causes white patches to form in the mouth, on the tongue or in the throat. Thrush can spread into the esophagus in severe cases. Other signs of thrush are cracked mouth corners, bright red tongue, trouble swallowing, poor taste sensation and pain. Antifungal medications are used to treat this condition.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a contagious bacterial condition that causes white spots in the throat. This painful condition can cause swollen tonsils with white areas and pus. Red spots on the roof of your mouth or throat can also develop. Strep throat typically causes considerable pain and makes swallowing difficult. Other symptoms include high fever and swollen glands under your jaw. Although strep throat can resolve on its own, antibiotics can speed the healing process and reduce your risk of spreading the infection to others.

Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is a viral infection that commonly affects teens and children. This condition can cause sore throat, fever, swollen glands under your jaw and swollen tonsils. You may notice white or yellow spots form in the back of your throat or on your tonsils, as well as fatigue, drowsiness, decreased appetite, rash and generalized aching pain throughout your body. Treatment includes anti inflammatory and pain relieving medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve body aches, fever and sore throat. Symptoms of mononucleosis can last for several months.

Oral Leukoplakia

Oral leukoplakia is a condition that describes white spots in the mouth caused by chronic skin irritation. This condition occurs more commonly with tobacco use. In few cases, oral leukoplakia may become cancerous. White spots from this condition may resolve if the source of irritation is removed, however moderate to severe cases may require surgery.

Other Causes

White spots in your throat are not always due to infection. They may also develop from post-nasal drip, dry air or in response to allergies.

See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment instructions if you have white spots in your throat.

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