What causes throat white patches?

White patches at the back of your throat or on your tonsils are usually signs of infection, particularly strep throat, tonsillitis, or mononucleosis; they are sometimes associated with a syphilitic infection. In addition to infection, sometimes these white patches can be a result of an injury from a chemical injury to the throat.

Infectious causes of throat white patches

White throat patches may be caused by several infectious disorders including:

  • Infectious mononucleosis (mono)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Strep throat
  • Tonsillitis

Other causes of throat white patches

In some cases, chemical exposures or chronic irritation can produce throat white patches. Examples include:

  • Chemical injury
  • Leukoplakia (potentially precancerous white areas inside the mouth resulting from chronic irritation)

Serious or life-threatening causes of throat white patches

In some cases, white throat patches may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Abscess (collection of pus) around the tonsils or back of the throat
  • Blockage of the airway
  • Toxic chemical exposure

Questions for diagnosing the cause of throat white patches

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

  • How long have you had white patches in your throat?
  • Are they painful? Have you seen any pus?
  • Have you had a cough?
  • If you are coughing up mucus, what color is it? Clear, yellow, light brown, or green?
  • Are you having any difficulty breathing? Any congestion?
  • Are you having difficulty swallowing?
  • Have the glands in your neck felt swollen or tender to the touch?
  • Have you experienced any fever or chills?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Have you been exposed to any chemicals or fumes?

What are the potential complications of throat white patches?

Because white throat patches can be due to any of several 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:

  • Rheumatic fever (a complication of strep throat)
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
  • Severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips, fast heart rate, and anxiety
  • Sudden swelling of the tongue or throat structures
  • Vomiting
INTRODUCTION

What are throat white patches?

White patches at the back of your throat or on your tonsils can be signs of infection. Usually these patches are irritating or painful, and sometimes the pain is worse with swallowing or on coming into contact with acidic foods. In addition to infection, sometimes these white patches can be a result of an injury from chemical exposures.

... Read more about throat white patchesintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with throat white patches?

White throat patches may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the upper respiratory tract may also involve other body systems.

Respiratory symptoms that may occur along with throat white patches

White throat patches may accompany other symptoms affecting the respiratory syst... Read more about throat white patchessymptoms

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: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health