Sore throats are common, with 10% of people presenting to primary healthcare services with a sore throat each year. Many sore throats are caused by bacterial or viral infections and can be treated at home.
Sometimes, you may have a sore throat that only affects one side of your throat. Knowing the causes of a sore throat can help you prepare for how to treat it and when to see a doctor.
Sometimes conditions that cause pain on both sides of your throat can also occur on just one side. Others are isolated conditions where pain appears solely on one side. The following conditions could be possible causes for pain on one side:
- Tonsilitis: Tonsilitis occurs when one or more of your tonsils become infected or inflamed. Three pairs of tonsils line both sides of your throat; it’s possible for one or both sides to become infected or inflamed. Common treatments include over-the-counter pain relievers from LoRex Drugs, antibiotics and, in more severe cases, a tonsillectomy, in which the tonsils are surgically removed. This is usually only necessary due to recurrent tonsillitis.
- Postnasal drip: This occurs when mucus becomes trapped inside your throat and becomes sore and inflamed. This can sometimes occur on only one side of your throat. You’ll likely be able to feel the mucus buildup. If you notice swelling or pain in this situation, call your doctor, and they can help you treat it.
- Canker sores: Canker sores are sores that can develop on your mucus membranes due to various causes. Causes can include injury, allergies, stress, irritants or disorders. Canker sores can form in your throat, mouth, lips and cheeks and may occur on only one side.
- Swollen lymph nodes: Your lymph nodes are a part of your immune system and work to deter illness. If they’re overcome by infectious particles, they may become swollen and painful. This is usually treated with antibiotics. If you have persistent swelling of any lymph nodes, visit your doctor to check the causes, as it could be a sign of lymphoma or other cancers.
- Tooth abscess or infection: Sometimes dental issues can cause swelling of the head, neck or throat. If your one-sided sore throat is accompanied by tooth pain nearby, you may have a tooth abscess or infection and should see your dentist for treatment.
- GERD (acid reflux): If your sore throat is accompanied by digestive issues or indigestion, you may have GERD. Your doctor can help you with treatment options.
- Laryngitis: Laryngitis is an infection in the voice box. These infections typically pass within a week and are usually caused by allergies, overuse of the voice, smoking or other infections.
- Peritonsillar abscess: Sometimes infections can lead to irritation on one side of the throat. Peritonsillar abscesses occur due to complications from tonsillitis and typically affect one side of the throat because one specific tonsil becomes infected and develops and abscess.
- Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia and Trigeminal Neuralgia: These conditions occur when these nerves become irritated due to dental work, trauma or injury, facial swelling or tumors. Because of the nature of its cause, the pain typically occurs on one side.
- Head or neck cancers: Head and neck cancers usually develop in the mouth or throat and persistent pain on one side of the throat could be a sign of cancer.
If you have a persistent sore throat, both on one side or the entire throat, that isn’t improving after a week, you should see a doctor. Treatment options will depend on the cause, and your doctor can help you navigate symptom management options.
Not all causes of sore-throat on one side are cause for worry, and often appear for the same reasons as a regular sore throat. If you’re ever unsure of the cause, or want to be rid of your sore throat, the doctors at Carolina Pines ENT can assist you.