Is a prolonged sore throat that lasts for months ever a cause of concern?
Sore throat is a very common symptom and majority of the time it goes away within days to a few weeks. If you have sore throat lasting for more than a month, you should see a GP or an ENT Specialist to get an assessment. Some of the common causes of a prolonged sore throat seen in my practice include:
1. Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) - This refers to acid reflux from the stomach to the voice box (medically known as larynx). Common symptoms include sore throat, a feeling of something stuck in the throat, throat itchiness, throat tightness, frequent throat clearing, cough and hoarse voice. A diagnosis can usually be achieved through a thorough medical history and a physical examination which often includes the use of nasoendoscopy (a relatively painless scope through nose and throat region under local anaesthesia in the clinic). Treatment of LPR include lifestyle modifications (e.g. avoiding pr reducing consumption of acid reflux triggering food such as fried food, oily food, coffee, alcohol, acidic fruits etc, taking small meals and avoiding food or any drinks at least 3 hours before sleeping/lying down) and acid suppressant medications
2. Postnasal drip (PND) - This refers to mucous flowing from the nose down to the throat/voice box region. The inflamed mucous can be a constant irritant of the voice box, resulting in a sore throat. Quite common, such patients will also experience frequent throat clearing and cough. Common causes of PND include nasal allergies (medically known as Allergic Rhinitis or sensitive nose) and infection of the sinuses (Sinusitis). Allergic Rhinitis are treated with allergen avoidance, nasal steroid sprays and anti-histamines. Sinusitis are usually caused by a bacteria and treatment includes a course of oral antibiotics, saline sinus rinse and nasal steroid sprays.
Although rare, a prolonged sore throat can also be due to tumours/cancer in the throat or neck region. These patients may also have other red flag symptoms such as loss of weight, loss of appetite, hoarse voice, blood-stained phlegm or mucous, neck lumps and may have been heavy smokers/alcohol users. If your sore throat is longer than 1 month, you should get it assessed by either a General Practitioner or an ENT Specialist.
Dr Gan Eng Cern
MBBS, MRCS, MMed, FAMS
38 Irrawaddy Road #08-45
Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
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