What causes throat ulcers?

Throat ulcers are usually caused by untreated respiratory infections or by disorders of the tonsils or adenoids.

Infectious causes of throat ulcers

Throat ulcers may be caused by infections including:

  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Oral thrush (Candida albicans fungal infection)
  • Other bacterial and viral infections
  • Tonsillitis caused by group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus (most common cause)

Serious or life-threatening causes of throat ulcers

In rare cases, throat ulcers can be a symptom of a serious or potentially life-threatening condition including cancers of the throat and surrounding structures.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of throat ulcers

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your throat ulcers including:

  • How long have you had your throat ulcers?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you had a cough? If you are coughing up mucus, what color is it?
  • Are you having any congestion or difficulty breathing?
  • Are you having difficulty swallowing or speaking?
  • Have the glands in your neck felt swollen or tender to the touch?
  • Have you experienced any fever or chills?
  • Have you had an earache or headache?
  • Have you had any unexplained weight loss?

What are the potential complications of throat ulcers?

Because throat ulcers can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Loss of or permanent damage to voice
  • Sepsis (life-threatening infection of the bloodstream)
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


  1. Throat problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/throat-problems.html.
  2. Throat disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/throatdisorders.html.

What are throat ulcers?

Throat ulcers are a condition in which sores or lesions form in the back of the throat. If the affected tissues swell, they can potentially block the airway, creating a life-threatening situation.

... Read more about throat ulcersintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with throat ulcers?

Throat ulcers may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the respiratory system may also involve other body systems.

Throat and mouth symptoms that may occur along with throat ulcers

Throat ulcers may accompany other symptoms affecting the respiratory system including:
Read more about throat ulcerssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 11, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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