Throat

Everyone experiences sore throats when they have a cold or flu. But there are other reasons for sore throats that may be symptomatic of more serious problems.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is caused by streptococcal bacteria (strep) in the throat and often the tonsils. Symptoms include sudden severe sore throat, pain swallowing, a fever over 101oF, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, and white or yellow spots on a reddened back of the throat. Strep throat is highly contagious, with a two-to-five day incubation period. It can be diagnosed through a physical examination and a throat culture. Strep throat is treated with antibiotics and usually resolves in three to seven days, although the healing time can be up to two weeks. It is important to have strep throat diagnosed and begin treatment as soon as possible in order to prevent its spread to others.

Inflamed Tonsils and Adenoids

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils located in the back of the throat on both sides of the tongue. Tonsils are part of the body’s natural immune system. This tissue captures bacteria and viruses to either prevent them from entering the body or trigger the appropriate immune response. The back of the throat may appear red or swollen or have a white or yellow coating covering the tonsils. The adenoids (tissue high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate) may also be inflamed and swollen, impeding swallowing and/or breathing. Symptoms include a severe sore throat, painful or difficult swallowing, coughing, headache, fever, chills and swelling of the cheeks and neck. Tonsillitis may also be caused by strep throat. Antibiotic medication is generally prescribed to treat the inflammation (usually penicillin). Tonsillitis usually resolves in four to seven days if caused by a virus. Chronic cases of repeated tonsillitis may require surgical removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids (tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy). An adenoidectomy may also be recommended for children experiencing chronic ear infections.

Laryngitis

The larynx allows air to pass in and out of the lungs while preventing solids (food) and liquids from entering the lungs. The larynx also contributes to sound production by the vocal cords. Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, the top portion of the windpipe (trachea). It is characterized by hoarseness, coughing, difficulty in breathing for some children and, occasionally, loss of voice. In addition to an infection, laryngitis may be caused by acid reflux or nodules, polyps or nerve damage on the vocal cords. Laryngitis usually heals by itself within two weeks with the help of increased air moisture, drinking plenty of fluids and resting the voice.

Pharyngitis

The pharynx is tissue that resides behind the mouth an soft palate and acts as a pathway for food and liquids to enter the esophagus and air to enter the lungs. An inflammation of the pharynx is called pharyngitis. Painful swallowing is the most common symptom. Pharyngitis may also occur along with laryngitis. Again, the inflammation usually heals by itself with rest, fluids and air humidity.

Epiglottitis

The epiglottis is a flap of tissue at the base of the tongue that keeps food from going into the windpipe when swallowing. Epiglottitis occurs when this tissue becomes inflamed and infected. The swelling of the epiglottis can block the tongue and result in a medical emergency. In addition to infections, epiglottitis can be caused by chemicals (illicit drugs), severe heat damage (thermal epiglottitis) or trauma. If you experience a sore throat that hampers your ability to swallow, seek immediate medical attention.

If you have a sore throat that causes pain or won't heal, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.


Neck

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that resides at the base of the neck and produces hormones that regulate metabolism (how the body converts food into energy). Abnormal production of thyroid hormones results in thyroid disease. Two main causes of thyroid problems are overproduction of thyroid hormones, known as hyperthyroidism, and underproduction of thyroid hormones, known as hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can be caused by Grave's Disease (overproduction of the thyroid hormones), growths on the thyroid (either nodules or a goiter), inflammation of the thyroid and, in rare cases, pituitary gland malfunction or cancer. Symptoms include a feeling of speeding up or nervousness, shaky hands, fast heartbeat, sweatiness, red or itchy skin, frequent bowel movements, weight loss and weakness or tiredness. For mild to moderate symptoms, the treatment is usually antithyroid medicine. In more severe cases, radioactive iodine may be swallowed by the patient to destroy the harmful part of the thyroid.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is caused by underproduction of thyroid hormones (Hashimoto's Disease), exposure to excessive amounts of iodide (an old treatment for croup in children), high levels of lithium and removal of the thyroid gland. Symptoms usually appear gradually over time and may include feeling tired, weak or depressed, lower energy level, brittle nails, dry skin, constipation, memory problems and feeling cold more often. For women, it may also cause heavy or irregular menstrual periods. Hypothyroidism is treated with thyroid hormone pills.

Thyroid Nodules/Goiter

A thyroid nodule is a growth on the thyroid. A goiter is a swelling of the thyroid gland itself. Thyroid nodules are usually benign - only five out of every 100 thyroid nodules are cancerous. Most thyroid nodules are small and difficult to detect. However, bigger nodules may lead to swelling of the neck and problems with breathing or swallowing. Thyroid nodules and goiters may be indicative of hyperthyroidism. They can be diagnosed with a combination of blood tests to evaluate how well the thyroid is functioning; a thyroid scan, which uses a radioactive material and a camera to visualize the thyroid; ultrasound to see the number, size and placement of nodules; or fine needle biopsy, where a piece of tissue is removed from the nodule to determine if it is benign or malignant. In cases where cancerous or pre-cancerous cells are present, surgical removal is generally recommended.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is usually recognized by thyroid nodules or swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter). A benign thyroid nodule is called an adenoma. Diagnostic techniques used to identify thyroid cancer are ultrasound, fine needle biopsy, nuclear medicine or CT scan. Other symptoms include hoarseness, difficulty breathing or swallowing, neck pain, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss or coughing. In addition to surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, your doctor may recommend a radioactive iodine treatment. In more serious cases, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be required. Note that if any or all of the thyroid is surgically removed, you will have to take replacement thyroid hormones in pill form for the remainder of your life to keep your metabolism functioning at an optimal level for your good health.

If you have trouble swallowing or breathing, feel a lump in your throat or experience ongoing swelling in the neck, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists

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Steven F. Isenberg MD

(317) 355-1010
1400 N Ritter Ave #221
Indianapolis, IN 46219

 

8040 Clearvista Pkwy #450
Indianapolis, IN 46256