Pharyngitis: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Pharyngitis?

Pharyngitis is inflammation of the pharynx, the back of the throat. This can cause a sore throat, irritation in the throat and difficulty swallowing.
Pharyngitis can be acute characterized by a rapid onset and typically a relatively short course or chronic (long lasting). Pharyngitis can result in very large tonsils which cause trouble swallowing and breathing. It can involve some or all of parts of the throat:
1. The back third of the tongue
2. The soft palate (roof of the mouth)
3. The tonsils (fleshy tissue that are part of the throat s immune defences)
If the inflammation includes tonsillitis, it is called pharyngotonsillitis. Another sub classification is nasopharyngitis (the common cold).

Recovery Time

Acute pharyngitis is typically over within three to seven days. Its a common condition, particularly in children aged five to 15 years old during winter and early spring.


Diagnosis is mainly done by Physical examination and other tests which may be suggested include:
  • Throat swabs
  • CBC
  • Allergy tests

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1. What is the difference between pharyngitis and tonsillitis? 
Pharyngitis is inflammation of your throat (pharynx), whereas tonsillitis is inflammation of your tonsils. A sore throat is a symptom of both pharyngitis and tonsillitis.
Pharyngitis means inflammation of your pharynx. This is the part of your throat that starts at the back of your mouth and nose and connects them to your esophagus (the pipe that runs from your mouth to your stomach), windpipe (trachea) and voice box (larynx).
Tonsillitis is inflammation of your tonsils, which are the glands at the back of your throat.
You can develop tonsillitis on its own or at the same time as pharyngitis as part of a more general infection of your throat.
The two conditions are treated in a similar way. However, if you have recurrent or chronic tonsillitis, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your tonsils. Recurrent and chronic pharyngitis can be more difficult to treat, but understanding the causes can help to manage the condition. For example, if you drink alcohol regularly or smoke, drinking less and stopping smoking may help improve your symptoms.

Q2. When should I see a consultant? 
When a sore throat that is severe or lasts longer than a week. There is a difficulty in swallowing, breathing or opening your mouth. There is Blood in saliva or phlegm and frequently recurring sore throats.

Q3. Can I catch pharyngitis from someone who has it?
Yes, it is possible that you could catch the infection that has caused pharyngitis in another person. Explanation
Pharyngitis is usually caused by an infection with a virus (such as the common cold) or group A Streptococcus bacteria.
You’re most likely to catch the infection that causes pharyngitis by coming into contact with an infected person, for example by shaking hands with someone who has a sore throat, or by touching something an infected person has recently touched. You pick up the virus or bacteria on your hands and then, when you touch your nose or mouth, you may pass it to yourself.

Q4. What are the complications of pharyngitis? 
Although rheumatic fever is the best-known complication of acute streptococcal pharyngitis, the risk of its following acute infection remains quite low. Other complications include acute glomerulonephritis, peritonsillar abscess (quinsy), otitis media, mastoiditis, sinusitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia—all of which occur at low rates.

Q5. Why aren’t antibiotics usually prescribed to treat pharyngitis? 
Antibiotics aren’t usually helpful in relieving the symptoms of pharyngitis, or in reducing the duration of your illness. Pharyngitis is most often caused by a viral infection such as the common cold. Antibiotics only work against bacteria and so aren’t effective at treating viral infections. Your doctor may think it necessary to prescribe antibiotics if you have a severe illness that is likely to be caused by a bacterial infection, or if he or she thinks you are at increased risk of complications.

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