Pain in the throat can be severe and usually gets worse when swallowing. The pain can affect one side of the throat, or both sides of the throat. Sometimes the pain from the throat also irradiates to the ear. This occurs due to the fact that nerves to the back of the throat are very close to the nerves from the ear. Pain in one side of the throat usually occurs due to inflammation of the tonsils, enlarged lymph nodes and lymphatic tissue.
What causes pain on the left side of the throat?
Most common causes of unilateral throat pain include:
• Tonsillitis – is an inflammation of the tonsils. Tonsils are located on each side of the throat, at the back and they help our body fight infections. Usually tonsillitis is caused by viral infections, even though it could be caused also by bacterial infections. Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include: sore throat, swollen tonsils, difficulty swallowing, tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck, fatigue, fever, etc. Tonsillitis usually affects young children between preschool and teenagers, however tonsillitis can affect anyone. Treatment usually requires antibiotics for bacterial infections. Bed rest and plenty of fluids, especially for viral infections are recommended.
• Peritonsillar abscess – is usually a complication of tonsillitis. Peritonsillar abscess is characterized by accumulation of pus near the tonsils. The peritonsillar abscess is mostly caused by a bacterial infection and the signs and symptoms at the beginning are very similar to the signs and symptoms of tonsillitis or strep throat. It is very important to diagnose and treat a peritonsiallar abscess as soon as possible, in order to prevent further possible complications. Peritonsillar abscess is more common among young children and teenagers, however it can affect anyone. As a complication of tonsillitis, the infection spreads outside of the tonsils to the surrounding area, causing the formation of an abscess filled with puss. The signs and symptoms of peritonsillar abscess include: sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fevers, chills, headache, muffled voice, swollen lymph glands in the throat, swelling of the neck, bad breath, etc. Treatment includes antibiotics, but also very often a surgical drainage of the peritonsillar abscess is required.
• Swollen lymph glands and lymph nodes – occur due to an infection in your body. Lymph glands and lymph nodes help your body fight an infection. Tender and swollen lymph nodes on the neck can occur only in one side of the neck, while in many cases they affect both sides of the neck. Treatment consists of bed rest, plenty of fluids during the day, OTC pain relievers and even applying of warm and wet clothes over the affected area.
• Strep throat – is a bacterial infection of the throat caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus. They are highly contagious and can spread through airborne droplets while sneezing or coughing. It can also be spread through shared food or drinks. If left untreated it can cause serious complications like rheumatic fever, inflammation of the kidneys, etc. Signs and symptoms of strep throat include: sore throat, pain in the throat, fever, chills, headache, swollen and tender lymph nodes on the neck, swollen tonsils, difficulties swallowing, etc. Antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin are usually recommended.
• Vocal nodules – are thickenings that form on the vocal cords. These vocal nodules are caused due to repeated trauma of the vocal cords. Vocal trauma consists of using your voice too loud, too much or even incorrectly. The signs and symptoms of vocal nodules include: throat pain, neck pain, tightness, vocal fatigue, hoarseness in your speaking voice, decreased tone vibrancy, etc. Treatment is more effective when the vocal nodules are diagnosed early. Treatment usually consists on avoiding talk for several weeks and in more severe cases, surgical removal of these vocal nodules is recommended.
• Dental causes – pain in the throat due to dental problems is very common. Regardless of what the dental issue is, the pain is usually located on the affected side of the throat. However, sometimes it can affect both sides of the throat. Treatment is not required in cases when there is throat pain due to dental work. However, if any other problem related to your teeth causes unilateral throat pain, you should visit your dentist.