What Causes White Spots in Your Throat?

Reviewed on 9/16/2020

Strep throat is a common cause of white spots in the throat, but oral thrush, tonsillitis and other infections may also cause this symptom.
Strep throat is a common cause of white spots in the throat, but oral thrush, tonsillitis and other infections may also cause this symptom.

White spots in the throat are most frequently caused by infections. 

There are several possible causes for white spots in the throat. 

What Other Symptoms May Accompany White Spots in Your Throat?

Other symptoms that may accompany white spots in the throat include:

Strep Throat 

  • Pain on swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen or sore lymph nodes on the front of the neck
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Red spots on the roof of your mouth

Rash (scarlet fever)

  • Tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth 

Tonsillitis

Oral thrush 

  • Red spots and bleeding under the white patches
  • Feels like cotton is in the mouth
  • Unpleasant taste in mouth
  • Pain or burning sensation on the tongue
  • Difficulty eating, swallowing, speaking, or tasting foods and drinks
  • Cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Not wanting to feed (in babies)

Mononucleosis

  • Extreme tiredness/fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen and sore lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • Head and muscle aches
  • Swollen liver or spleen or both
  • Rash

Tonsil stones

  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Cough
  • Enlarged tonsils without signs of infection
    • Tonsils may enlarge due to immune response in the body
  • Round masses in the back of the throat
  • Trouble swallowing

Oral herpes

  • Severe, flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes and headache
  • Sores on and around the lips and mouth

Leukoplakia

  • Spots can be anywhere in the mouth

Lichen Planus

  • Burning or pain
  • Bleeding and irritation with tooth brushing
  • Sensitivity to hot, spicy, or acidic foods
  • Gum inflammation (gingivitis)
  • Painful, thick patches on the tongue
  • Discomfort speaking, chewing, or swallowing

What Is the Treatment for White Spots in Your Throat?

Treatment for white spots in the throat depends on the cause. 

  • Strep throat, caused by streptococcus bacteria
  • Tonsillitis
    • If caused by a virus, rest and adequate hydration may be all that is needed
    • If caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be prescribed
  • Oral thrush
    • Antifungal medications 
  • Mononucleosis
  • Tonsil stones
    • Tonsil stones may go away on their own and often no treatment is needed
    • Medications used to treat tonsil stones may include antibiotics for infection or antihistamines to treat sinus problems or allergies
    • Laser treatment (laser tonsil cryptolysis)
    • Coblation cryptolysis
    • Surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy)
  • Enlarged tonsils without signs of infection
    • No treatment is necessary if there are no symptoms 
    • If patients have problems swallowing, surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be recommended
  • Oral herpes
    • Oral antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir
    • Topical antiviral ointments, such as acyclovir and penciclovir
    • Over-the-counter (OTC) topical anesthetics or anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve symptoms
  • Leukoplakia
    • Stop smoking/chewing tobacco
    • Limit or avoid alcohol
    • Surgical removal of white patches if it is suspected it could become cancerous
  • Lichen Planus
    • May go away on its own but can also last years
    • Prescription mouthwashes and sprays can help relieve burning or sore gums
    • Corticosteroids, oral, topical, or by injection 
    • Immunosuppressants 

SLIDESHOW

Sore Throat or Strep Throat? How to Tell the Difference See Slideshow

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Reviewed on 9/16/2020
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