What Causes White Spots on Throat?

Published on: October 31, 2021
A doctor examining woman's throat.

If you notice white spots on the back of your throat when you look in the mirror, you may be concerned. When the normal pinkish tissue in the back of the mouth has white spots, it can be signs of illness. There are a few possible causes of white spots on throat, most of which may require medical treatment. Here are some of the possible causes of white spots on the back of your throat and other accompanying symptoms for these illnesses.

Oral Infections
Oral infections are often the causes of white spots on the back of your throat. Bacteria, yeast and fungal oral infections can be dangerous and impact your wellness. The white coloration is only one of the indications of an infection – the other symptoms can help indicate what type of condition you may have and determine the treatment you may require.
Oral Thrush
A yeast infection in the mouth or oral thrush is a possible cause of white spots on the tongue, oral tissues and throat. This is a common condition that often affects infants and those with immune-compromised conditions or on certain medications. While oral thrush is usually not dangerous, it does require treatment to keep it from spreading to the esophagus or other areas of the body. Accompanying symptoms may include a bright red tongue, cracked corners on the mouth, oral pain and trouble swallowing.
An infection of the tonsils, the tissues on either side of the top of the throat, is called tonsilitis. One of the symptoms is yellow or white spots on the back of the throat. Tonsillitis can be caused by a virus or bacterial infection. Some of the other symptoms may include sore throat, swollen tonsils, difficulty swallowing, fever and scratchy voice. Treatment can include medications, but severe cases may require removal of the tonsils.

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Mononucleosis is a viral infection that is most common in children and teens, nicknamed the “kissing disease,” as it is contagious. Mono can cause white spots on throat and multiple other symptoms. Fatigue, body aches, fever and sore throat can accompany the white spots on the back of the throat. The symptoms of mononucleosis can last for months.
Strep Throat
Strep throat is a common cause of white spots on throat. This bacterial infection results in a sore and swollen throat that can make it difficult to swallow. During the infection, patients often have a high fever, nausea, chills and headache. While strep throat can go away on its own, there are risks of complications. The infection can spread to other areas or cause more serious infections that may have life-threatening or long-term consequences.
Other Causes of Oral White Spots
Not all white spots on throat or oral tissues are caused by infection. It can be a sign of skin irritation from substances like tobacco or alcohol or a symptom of allergies. While bacterial, viral or fungal infections are the most common causes of white spots on the back of the throat, there are possible other causes.
Oral Leukoplakia
Lesions on the back of the throat or on oral tissues can be caused by skin irritation or oral leukoplakia. These lesions may present with white spots on throat, but they are not an infection. The most common causes of oral leukoplakia are tobacco and alcohol use – stopping use can resolve the white, thickened lesion, but not always. Oral leukoplakia can be a pre-cancerous condition and some cases may require surgical removal for treatment.
One of the most benign causes of white spots on back of throat is allergies. Post-nasal drip and sinus drainage can be the cause of white spots on throat. Both seasonal and indoor allergies can cause white spots or coloring on the tongue, throat and oral tissues. If you have allergies and white spots on throat, but no other symptoms of infection, it is likely that your white oral spots are due to your allergies.

A doctor examining woman's throat.

When To See a Doctor for White Spots on Throat

If you notice white spots on the back of your throat and you have other symptoms like a fever, difficulty swallowing, pain or nausea, you should see your doctor. While some causes of white lesions on the oral tissues are not serious, if a fever is present, you may have an infection that requires treatment. Even if it is a mild infection, medications can shorten your illness and reduce chances of the infection spreading to other areas. Also, some throat infections are very contagious and should be contained to reduce spreading it to others.

White spots on the throat or oral tissues can indicate a few different health concerns, from infections to a pre-cancerous condition. If you have any pain or fever with your white oral coloration, it is best to schedule a visit to your doctor for diagnosis and possible treatment.

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