How to Know if You Have Plaques in the Throat?

Plaques in the throat are a fairly common symptom of various infections, so we show you how to identify them. Keep reading.
How to Know if You Have Plaques in the Throat?

Last update: 07 May, 2023

The throat is an area of the body that’s vulnerable to infection. Through it passes all the air that’s inhaled and the food that’s ingested, together with the germs that these may contain. All of these infections can cause injury. Continue reading and discover how to tell if you have plaques in the throat.

It’s important to note that this anterior area of the neck is made up of various anatomical structures, including the tonsils, the uvula, the pharynx, and the back of the tongue. All can become infected and suffer from this characteristic lesion.

Older adults and children are the most vulnerable to these types of infections. In the case of children, this is due to the habit of putting everything in their mouths. In fact, pain and plaques in the throat are one of the most frequent reasons for consultation in pediatrics.

What are plaques in the throat?

It’s important to define what plaques in the throat are. These are lesions that are characterized by presenting an elevation and a change in color with respect to the surrounding tissue. Plaques in the throat can have a variable diameter, depending on their etiology.

Depending on the causative agent, they can be classified as viral or bacterial:

  • Viral: Viruses are responsible for 80% of throat infections. However, they usually subside on their own between 3 and 5 days. Viral plaques are red, and the surrounding tissue will be inflamed. They’re usually located in the tonsils, uvula, and pharynx.
  • Bacterial: These can be more painful and annoying than viral ones. They’re characterized by the presence of a purulent fluid that gives them a whitish or yellowish coloration. Their location can vary, but they’re found, above all, in the tonsils.
A woman sitting in bed, feeling ill and touching her throat.
Some symptoms accompany plaques in the throat, such as fever and generalized muscle discomfort.

Why do these lesions appear?

As we’ve already mentioned, plaques in the throat can appear as a result of an infection of any of the structures that make up this area, the most common being tonsillitis. This is because the tonsils are the first line of defense and filtering, so they’ll attract most germs.

When it comes to viral infections, the most common etiologic agent is the common cold virus. This disease doesn’t usually involve serious complications, so the presence of these lesions aren’t alarming.

On the other hand, when we refer to bacterial infections, the most common causative agent is streptococcus. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 out of 10 children with sore throats and plaques have a strep infection. They can occur at any time of the year. However, they’re more frequent during the winter.

There are other less common infections that are capable of causing the appearance of these lesions in the throat, among which the following stand out:

Associated symptoms

The symptoms presented by patients with plaques in the throat may vary depending on the etiological origin of the infection and the anatomical structure affected. However, in general terms, they usually present with the following symptoms:

  • Pain and difficulty swallowing: This is one of the first manifestations and varies greatly from one patient to another. In this regard, it ranges from a simple itching, burning, or discomfort to quite intense pain that limits food intake.
  • Fever: May be absent in some cases, however, when it occurs, it’s usually high, so it must be controlled quickly to avoid decompensation.
  • Spots on the throat: These are the plaques themselves, which will be white or red.
  • Swollen glands: Being an infection, the body will try to fight it. This will cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Earache: Some infections in the throat are capable of spreading and affecting the ear.

How to know if you have plaques in the throat?

If you suffer from one or more of the symptoms described, you may have a throat infection. But how do you know if you have plaques? The easiest way to verify this is with direct observation. You just have to stand in front of a mirror, open your mouth wide enough, and look carefully.

It’s important to observe all areas carefully, from the tonsils to the pharynx, looking for spots or a change in coloration. Observation can sometimes be difficult, so it’s best to use a flashlight or do it in an area with sufficient light.

Beyond personal observation to understand what’s happening, it’s always advisable to see a doctor when an infection is suspected. The professional will be the only one who can make an accurate diagnosis.

A doctor looking at a woman's throat.
A medical professional must determine the viral or bacterial origin of bacterial plaques in the throat.

The treatment of plaques

Treatment of throat infections can vary. In the case of viral infections, the patient will only need to carry out a symptomatological approach, which may include reducing the fever with paracetamol and alleviating the other symptoms.

On the other hand, when it comes to a bacterial infection, the specialist will prescribe antibiotics in order to eliminate the bacteria that are causing the problem. A symptomatological approach should also be carried out, very similar to that of viral infections.

In addition to the medical indications, an adjuvant is gargling with salt water. This mixture often acts as an antiseptic, killing germs. Plaques in the throat rarely indicate serious diseases that are a cause for concern, however, you should always see a doctor if they’re present.

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