Do you have a throat ulcer? Do you want to know how to treat a throat ulcer? Then you have come to the right place. In this article, we will be discussing throat ulcers, the causes, the symptoms, how to treat a throat ulcer, and the prevention of throat ulcers.
What is Throat Ulcer?
Throat ulcers are open sores in the throat. Sores can also form in the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach and in the vocal cords. You can have an ulcer when an injury or illness causes the lining of the throat to break or when a mucous membrane opens and does not heal.
Sometimes a person may have sores in the throat, which may become red and swollen. These sores can cause problems with eating, drinking, chewing, swallowing, or talking.
Additionally, many things, including chemotherapy and radiation, fungal, bacterial or viral infections, cancer, acid reflux from the stomach and other conditions that cause inflammation and irritation can cause these ulcers.
Some facts about throat ulcers:
- Prognosis is generally good, especially for those who take their medication and follow the recommended diets.
- The treatment and management of throat ulcers will depend on what is causing them.
- Pain from ulcers can cause a variety of symptoms, such as difficulty eating, drinking, chewing, swallowing, or speaking.
Having read and understood what throat ulcers are, let us present to you what can lead to you having throat ulcers. Knowing this is a very essential step in knowing how to treat a throat ulcer.
Throat ulcers can be caused by:
- Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer.
- Bacteria infections
- Fungal infections such as candidiasis, which is a yeast infection caused by Candida albicans.
- Cancer of the oropharynx, which is cancer in the part of the throat just behind the mouth.
- Behçet syndrome: This is an ailment that causes inflammation in the skin, the lining of the mouth, the genitals, and in other parts of the body.
- Viral infections, such as herpangina (blisters in the mouth) and hand, foot, and mouth disease, which are caused by the Coxsackie A virus.
Esophageal ulcers can result from or might be related to:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is characterized by a flow of stomach acid into the esophagus on a regular basis.
- An infection of your esophagus caused by viruses such as herpes simplex (HSV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papillomavirus (HPV) or cytomegalovirus (CMV).
- Irritants such as alcohol and caffeine. The excessive consumption of acidic foods, such as those containing citrus and vinegar, and drinks containing caffeine and alcohol can cause ulcer of the esophagus.
- The use of certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), bisphosphonates, and certain antibiotics.
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer.
- Excessive vomiting.
- Allergies can also cause this ulcer.
- Ingestion of corrosive agents like ammonia or sodium hydroxide.
Vocal cord ulcers (also called granulomas) can be caused by or related to:
- Irritation from speaking or singing in excess.
- Laryngopharyngeal reflux, an inflammatory disease caused by GERD, where stomach acid enters the lower part of the throat and voice box.
- Repeated upper respiratory infections.
- Intubation. This is the passing of an endotracheal tube through your throat to the trachea to help you breathe.
There are some signs you need to look out for in case you suspect that you have a throat ulcer.
You can have these symptoms together with throat ulcers. If you have these symptoms please consult your doctor to help you treat the throat ulcer.
- Mouth sores
- Difficulty swallowing and pain swallowing
- White or red spots on the throat
- Fever and Chills
- Pain in the mouth or throat
- Joint Pain
- Lump in the neck
- Feeling like there is a lump in the throat
- Bad breath
- Jaw displacement problems
- Stomach pains
- Chest pain or heartburn
- Stomach acid regurgitation
- A sore throat
- Vomiting with or without blood
- Choking sensation
- Voice changes
- Frequent coughing or clearing throat
- Changes in taste (acidic or bitter or sour taste in mouth)
- Ear pain
Firstly, doctors will do a physical exam and assess a person’s symptoms. They may then need to take throat cultures, using oral swabs. Sometimes blood tests and urine tests may be necessary.
However, the diagnosis of throat ulcers will depend on the suspected cause of the disease and may include:
- Panendoscopy: to assess the mouth, nose, throat (including larynx and hypopharynx), esophagus and trachea to detect potentially cancerous tumors.
- Esophageal endoscopy: To assess abnormalities of the esophagus using a light camera placed in the esophagus. Biopsies or skin samples can be taken at this time.
- Laryngeal videotroboscopy: To assess the vocal cords and the voice box with strobe through a laryngoscope and a video recording.
- Barium swallow x-ray: To evaluate esophageal narrowing, hernias or massive lesions; This is done by drinking a liquid barium solution that coats the lining of the throat, esophagus, and stomach.
- Laryngoscopy: To evaluate the larynx and hypopharynx (area of the throat where the pharynx and esophagus meet behind the larynx), using a fiber-optic camera or small mirrors.
- Other imaging tests: may include computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In some cases, especially if a doctor suspects cancer, they may recommend a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
How to Treat Throat Ulcer
The treatment prescribed by your doctor will be dependent on the cause of throat ulcers.
Acetaminophen can be used as a treatment for throat ulcers.
In some cases, simple lifestyle changes may prove necessary.
However, some types of throat or esophageal ulcers require further medical attention and people should discuss treatment options with their doctor.
Your treatment may include:
- Antibiotics, antiviral or antifungals prescriptions by your doctor to treat a bacterial or yeast infection.
- Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve the discomfort of ulcers.
- Medicinal rinses/mouthwash to relieve pain and healing such as the local and commonly available anesthetic lidocaine.
To treat an esophageal ulcer, you may need to take:
- Antacids, H2 receptor blockers or proton pump inhibitors (over-the-counter or prescription) to neutralize stomach acid or decrease the amount of acid it generates.
- Antibiotics, antibiotics, antiparasitics or antivirals to treat an infection
- Medicines that make the stomach empty fast.
- Glucocorticoid therapy.
- In some cases, surgery may be needed.
Vocal cord ulcers are treated with:
- Rest your voice
- Removal of the endotracheal tube
- Undergo voice therapy
- Treat GERD
- Undergo surgery if other treatments do not help
Home Remedies to Treat Throat Ulcer
As earlier stated, lifestyle modifications can be made to treat and control throat ulcer symptoms. To relieve the pain of throat ulcers, you can also try these homemade treatments:
- Avoid spicy, hot, and acidic foods. Also, avoid mouthwash and drinks containing alcohol and tobacco smoking. If the ulcer makes you more sensitive to heat, eat warm or cold food instead of hot food. These foods can further irritate wounds.
- Avoid medicines that can irritate the throat, such as aspirin (Bufferin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and alendronic acid (Fosamax).
- Eat soft, creamy and mild foods. This helps deter more irritation and worsening of the throat ulcer. Instead of eating crunchy foods that could scratch your throat or spicy foods that can cause irritation, eat soft foods that are easy to swallow. Try soups, milkshakes, smoothies, soft eggs, cheese, mashed potatoes, or yogurt.
- Avoid hard and rough foods, such as nuts, chips, and certain fruits and vegetables.
- Drink cold liquids or suck on something cold, such as ice chips or popsicle to soothe sores.
- Drink extra fluids, especially water, throughout the day.
- Eat sour cream before each meal to cover the mucous membranes.
- Ask your doctor if you should use an anesthetic rinse or medicine to relieve a sore throat.
- Avoid eating large, fatty foods just before bedtime.
- Gargle with warm salt water or a mixture of salt, water, and baking soda. To relieve the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, prepare a salt solution of 1 teaspoon (6 g) of baking soda mixed with 1 teaspoon (5 g) of salt and 4 cups (950 ml) lukewarm water. Gargle with the mixture for at least 30 seconds, then spit it out.
You can gargle with salt water as many times as you want. For example, if you have severe ulcers, gargle every 1 to 2 hours.
- Do not smoke tobacco or use alcohol. These substances can also increase irritation.
- Reduce the risk of GERD by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding irritating and acidic foods, including foods made from tomatoes, citrus fruits, mint, and chocolates.
Just as the popular saying goes that prevention is better than cure, to prevent a throat ulcer is always better than to treat a throat ulcer.
You may not be able to prevent certain causes of throat ulcers, such as cancer treatment. Other causes may be more avoidable.
Taking these measures may help you prevent throat ulcers.
Reduce your risk of infection: maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating and after using the toilet. Stay away from anyone who seems sick. Also, try to track your vaccinations. Keeping surfaces clean and tidy can also limit the spread of infection.
Exercise and eat healthy: To prevent GERD, maintain a healthy weight. The extra weight can compress the stomach and force the acid into the esophagus. Eat several small meals instead of three large meals a day. Shun foods that trigger acid reflux, such as spicy, acidic, fatty and fried foods. Raise the head of the bed while sleeping to keep the acid in the stomach.
Adjust medications if necessary: Take all medications as directed; avoid taking pills without water, just before lying down and just before bedtime. Ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking can cause throat ulcers. If so, see if you can adjust the dose, adjust the way you take it, or change the medication.
Do not smoke: Smoking increases your risk of cancer, which can contribute to a sore throat. Smoking also irritates the throat and weakens the valve which prevents acid from returning to the esophagus.
Control risk factors: Talk to a doctor about how to control any condition that may cause an increased risk of developing an ulcer, such as diabetes mellitus.
Healing Time and When to See Your Doctor
Each situation is unique. People should discuss the prediction with their doctor.
Anyone with new or unusual symptoms should contact a doctor as soon as possible, as this may require medical attention.
People with any of the following symptoms should contact a doctor:
- Unrelieved pain by over-the-counter medications.
- Symptoms not relieved with over-the-counter antacids or other treatments for GERD
- Inability to eat or drink
- Wounds lasting more than a few days
Anyone who experiences the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:
- Chest pain, shortness of breath, heart rate or lethargy.
- Headache, vomiting, neck pain or stiff neck.
- Behavioral changes and flu-like symptoms.
- Vomiting large amounts.
- Vomiting bright red blood.
- Vomit that looks like ground coffee.
Summary and Recommendation
Throat ulcers can be caused by a variety of medical conditions and treatments. They can cause sometimes intense and debilitating pain. Although painful, treatment and prognosis are generally good, but it depends on the condition being treated.
Your prognosis depends on the condition causing the throat ulcers and how it has been treated.
- Esophageal ulcers should heal within a few weeks. Taking medication to reduce stomach acid can speed up the healing process.
- Throat ulcers caused by chemotherapy should heal after cancer treatment is finished.
- Ulcers in the vocal cords should improve with rest after a few weeks.
- Infections usually clear up within a week or two. Antibiotics and antifungal drugs can help a bacterial or yeast infection clear up faster.
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