What Those White Pus Patches in Your Throat May Mean

What Those White Pus Patches in Your Throat May Mean

When your throat hurts, you might be tempted to peek at your throat in the mirror. You might expect to see some redness, but what about white pus patches? White pus patches are often associated with strep throat, but that’s not the only reason you discover white spots in your throat.

Drs. Ines Munoz De Laborde and Sveltlana Burkhead and the team of providers here at Physicians Medical Urgent Care in San Jose, California, highlight four things those white pus patches in your throat may mean.

1. Strep throat

Strep throat 一 officially known as streptococcal pharyngitis一 is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. This is a very contagious bacterial infection that causes white pus patches in your throat or on your tonsils. You might also experience a fever, an intense sore throat, difficulty swallowing, redness in your throat, and a headache.

Strep throat is most common in children, but adults can contract it if they’ve been exposed to the illness. Strep throat is important to treat quickly because untreated strep throat can lead to serious complications such as scarlet fever, kidney inflammation, rheumatic fever, and post-streptococcal reactive arthritis. 

Strep throat is easily diagnosed with a rapid antigen test (which only takes a few minutes), so if you or your child have strep throat, you can get started with antibiotics quickly. 

2. Mono

Infectious mononucleosis 一 often called mono 一 is another cause of white spots in your throat. Unlike strep, mono is a viral infection. In addition to your sore throat and white spots, mono is notorious for causing fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a swollen spleen.

Mono treatments include at-home remedies, such as rest, taking in fluids, and eating a healthy diet.

3. Oral thrush

Oral thrush is a fungal infection that causes white patches to develop at the back of your throat. Sometimes the white bumps become pus-filled. This infection spreads easily between breastfeeding babies and mothers, but it can develop in anyone. Oral thrush doesn’t cause a sore throat, but the bumps throughout your mouth can contribute to pain when eating. Additionally, the white cottage-cheese like patches aren’t limited to your throat. They can develop on your cheeks or tongue.

4. Oral herpes and cold sores

Oral herpes can also cause white spots in your throat. If cold sores form blisters, these white spots can become white and pus-filled. You might suspect you’re dealing with a cold sore if the blister bursts, turns red, turns crusty and dries up over the next seven to ten days. Additionally, cold sores don’t cause sore throats. 

Cold sore treatments include antiviral medications and topical medications.

What’s causing the white pus patches in your throat?

The only way to know for sure what’s causing the white patches to your throat is to visit our San Jose, California office for an evaluation. Depending on your symptoms (especially if you have or don’t have a sore throat) and the results of your physical exam, we may order a rapid strep test to rule out or confirm if strep is the culprit.

Depending on what your diagnosis is, treatments for the white patches can vary from antibiotics to antifungals.

If your throat hurts and you’re concerned about white pus patches, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Receiving an accurate diagnosis and getting started on a treatment plan can help you feel better quicker. You can also call us at 408-207-4637. We also welcome walk-ins.

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