Pharyngitis is a medical condition characterized by an inflamed pharynx, which is the part of the throat and neck located immediately behind the mouth cavity. Individuals afflicted with this condition experience a sore throat, which may be accompanied by a headache, fever, or swollen lymph nodes. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing.
A variety of factors can cause pharyngitis, all of which are different types of microorganisms. The majority of cases are caused by viral infections, with the most common infections being flu, the common cold, mononucleosis, adenovirus, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Other viruses that can cause it include adenovirus, measles, herpes simplex, coxsackieviruses, and Epstein-Barr virus.
Certain types of bacterial infections can also lead to pharyngitis, including group A streptococcus, which is responsible for strep throat. In fact, this bacteria is responsible for approximately 15% of cases. Strep throat can also lead to serious complications, such as kidney dysfunction, rheumatic fever, and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
Other bacterial infections that can lead to pharyngitis include Arcanobacterium or Corynebacterium haemolvyticus, Chlamydia and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Corynbacterium diphtheriae, and Neisseria gonnorrhoeae. Group C, G, and F streptococci can also cause the condition. This group accounts for about 10% of cases.
A few rarer types of bacteria can also lead to pharyngitis. These include Francisella tularensis, Borrelia species, Corynebacterium ulcerans, and Yersinia species.
Since respiratory diseases, bacterial infections, and viral infections occur most often in the colder months, pharyngitis is more prevalent during the same season. In addition, the inflammation can be caused by dry air, which is common in the winter months as a result of the indoor heating. There are also causes that do not involve microorganisms, including chemical injury, smoking, gastroesophageal reflux disease, endotracheal intubation, and neoplasia. Allergies and postnasal drip can also lead to pharyngitis.
Proper treatment of pharyngitis depends on the underlying cause. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, it may be treated with antibiotics. To treat the symptoms, a doctor may recommend taking pain relievers, gargling with warm saltwater, and ingesting plenty of fluids.