Throat Ulcer: Symptoms, Causes, and How to Treat the Swelling Properly

Throat ulcer - Photo by silviarita on Pixabay

Jul 09, 2020 10:00 PM

Ulcers may seem like a no biggie, but oftentimes they cause great discomforts. It happens to any ulcer, whether it’s an oral, tonsil, or throat ulcer.

The painful sensation resulted from the lesions is unbearable. An oral ulcer has whitish and/or red surrounding areas in the frontal area of the mouth, while tonsil and throat ulcers are further back and to the sides of the throat.

In some serious cases, these “mere” ulcers can even threaten someone’s life. This is especially true with throat ulcers—if the affected tissues swell, they can potentially block the airway. That’s why it’s important to understand more about throat ulcer to better treat it.

Ulcer in throat

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At times, a person may have an ulcer in the throat, esophagus, or voice box. This condition usually causes problems eating, drinking, chewing, swallowing, or talking. They are open sores on your throat forming white or red patches which feel especially painful when your mouth is dry.

Throat ulcer symptoms

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Depending on the underlying cause, you might experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever and chills
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Stomach acid regurgitation
  • Vomiting with or without blood
  • Choking sensation
  • Chest pain or burning (heartburn)
  • Feeling as if there is a lump in the throat
  • Nausea
  • Voice changes
  • Frequent coughing or clearing throat
  • Taste changes (acidic or bitter or sour taste in mouth)
  • Smelling changes
  • Ear pain

Your doctor will do a physical exam and evaluate the symptoms present. Some of the diagnosis evaluation you’ll probably undergo including barium swallow X-ray, esophageal endoscopy, laryngoscopy, laryngeal videostroboscopy, panendoscopy, and other imaging tests like CT or MRI scans.

Throat ulcer causes

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There are some possible causes of your throat ulcer. Bacterial infections, fungal infections, or viral infections can be the culprits.

Conditions such as Behçet’s syndrome, which is an inflammatory disease that causes ulcers to form in the mouth, genitals, and other areas of the body, can also become the cause of your throat ulcer.

Sometimes a throat ulcer can be caused by cancer or the side effect of certain chemotherapy or radiation treatments to treat cancer.

Ulcer back of throat treatment

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The treatment for your throat ulcer depends on what causes it in the first place. In most cases, simple lifestyle modifications may be all that is necessary. Avoid spicy, sour, hot, or acidic foods.

Drink extra fluids throughout the day, especially cold ones to help relieve the pain. Gargling with warm salt water can help, too. You’re also advised not to smoke or use alcohol when having a throat ulcer.

Sometimes, your throat ulcer requires some medical treatment. If you have, say, a viral infection, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. If it’s caused by acid reflux, antacids or a proton pump inhibitor may be needed.

You can also try pain-relieving medications, such as acetaminophen, to help alleviate the excruciating pain you experience. If you think gargling with warm salt water doesn’t do much work, your doctor can prescribe you mouthwashes containing medications such as the local anesthetic lidocaine.

Throat ulcer healing time

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Most infections usually go away within a week or two. Antibiotics and antifungal medication can help a bacterial or yeast infection clear up faster, so you don’t need to worry. Throat ulcers caused by chemotherapy should heal once you finish cancer treatment.

Throat ulcer prevention

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It’s better safe than sorry. Prevent any possibility of having throat ulcers—or any ulcer—by maintaining good hygiene. Wash your hands often throughout the day, especially before you eat and after you use the bathroom. Keeping up to date with your vaccinations should help.

One obvious thing you shouldn’t skip is eating healthy. Eat several smaller meals instead of three large ones daily. Avoid foods that trigger acid reflux, such as spicy, acidic, fatty, and fried foods. Exercise is also another which will improve your overall health, keeping the ulcers at bay.

Sometimes, when you take medicines regularly, it contributes to the forming of throat ulcers. Ask your doctor if any of the medicines you take can cause throat ulcers. If so, see if you can adjust the dose, adjust how you take it, or switch to another drug.

Last but not least, try to not smoking. It increases your risk of cancer, which can contribute to throat ulcers. Smoking also irritates your throat and weakens the valve that keeps acid from backing up into your esophagus.