Sore throat is a common symptom of many disorders, and most people will experience this symptom at least a few times a year, typically along with short viral illnesses or colds. Other common causes include bacterial throat infections, sinus infections, allergies, and dry air (especially during the winter months). Acid reflux can cause a sore throat, particularly in the morning. Less common causes of sore throat include tumors of the throat, inflammation or calcification of ligaments in the neck, muscle tension, and overactive pain nerves in the throat.
When should a sore throat be evaluated by an ENT doctor?
- Severe sore throat that does not respond to standard treatments prescribed by primary care provider or urgent care. This may be a sign of an abscess or other serious causes.
- Trouble breathing or inability to swallow.
- Inability to open the jaw. This is often a sign of more serious infection or abscess.
- Prolonged (more than 2 weeks) despite standard medical treatment.
- Soreness that recurs frequently.
- Lump(s) in the neck, particularly if this is persistent.
- Hoarseness lasting more than 2 weeks.
How will an ENT doctor evaluate my sore throat?
- A thorough history as well as head and neck exam will be performed.
- If the cause of the sore throat is not readily apparent, or if there is concern about other serious pathology such as swelling around the airway, a flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy may be performed. During this diagnostic procedure, a numbing spray is applied to the nose, and a flexible scope with camera is passed through the nose to visualize the throat, voice box and airway.
- Occasionally, further diagnostic testing including lab work or even a CT scan may be recommended.