What causes bumps in the back of your throat?
February 13, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

What causes bumps in the back of your throat?

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Small pimples or bumps in the back of the throat, which may look swollen, are usually an indicator of irritation. These bumps may make it difficult to swallow and can be regarded as an indicator for several conditions. In this article, the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of these bumps in the throat will be discussed.

Symptoms

Besides a sense of irritation or difficulty when swallowing substances, a person with bumps in the back of the throat may experience some of the following symptoms:

• Throat pain

• Nasal blockage

• Fever or flu-like symptoms

• Abnormal voice changes

Causes

The bumps or pimples may be caused by a few reasons or conditions:

Cobblestone throat: It is when the tissue at the back of the throat becomes inflamed in response to additional mucus in the throat, hence the condition often comes along with flu. Cobblestone is easy to treat and causes no harm other than a bit of irritation.

Pharyngitis: Pharyngitis basically means sore throat, and it is responsible for 60% of cases related to bumps in the back of the throat. It is caused by viral or bacterial infections, thus many patients experiencing other diseases such as chickenpox catch pharyngitis too. It is much more common in children than adults, as children have weaker immune systems, so their body is unable to fight off bacteria and viruses. 

Cancer: In incredibly rare cases, bumps in the back of the throat are a result of cancer, especially one that is spreading to the rest of the body. If the bumps or swelling in the throat spread throughout the throat, then it is likely that the person has cancer. 

Diagnosis

A doctor may perform a number of different basic tests to perform a diagnosis of the issue:

• Throat and mouth examination: The doctor will first use a spatula or tongue depressor to push the tongue down in order to inspect the mouth and throat. This will allow the doctor to determine the color and quantity of the bumps, which will help determine the cause of the problem

• Blood test: The doctor may get you to perform a blood test if the problem seems serious. A blood test normally helps the doctor identify what type of bacteria or virus is causing the issue.

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• Throat culture: A throat culture is recommended once a blood test confirms what type of bacteria or virus is causing the bumps. A throat culture can further specify the bacteria or virus creating the bumps or pimples – it usually detects less common viruses and bacterium.

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Results

The results from the tests or diagnosis can tell the depth of the problem:

• A few white bumps: White bumps in the throat are caused by bacterial, chemical, or (in rare cases) fungal infections.

• A few red bumps: Red bumps in the throat are a sign of viral infections.

• Both red and white bumps: A mix of red and white bumps can indicate oral herpes, thrush, strep throat, or in a few cases, oral cancer.

• A large number of bumps: A significant number of bumps, regardless of color, highlight that the person may be suffering from a serious viral or bacterial infection. It can be evidence of potential cancer, as the bumps have spread throughout the throat and mouth.

Treatment

Most of the time, bumps in the back of the throat can be self-treated through simple home remedies. Some self-treatment methods include:

• Gargling the throat with warm lemon or saltwater

• Eating honey

• Taking painkillers like ibuprofen for pain relief

A doctor may treat bumps in the throat by:

• Prescribing antibiotics if the infection seems bacterial

• Recommending the consumption of throat lozenge (strepsils) or hard candy

• Advocating a high intake of water and hot drinks

If the issue is more serious or part of a larger health problem like cancer or chickenpox, then the bumps go away once the main issue is resolved. 

All in all, bumps or pimples in the back of the throat are usually caused by viral or bacterial infections that go away in a matter of days if the throat is taken care of properly. They can be treated through a few easy methods such as consumption of honey, water, hot drinks, ice-pops, throat lozenges, or gargling with warm lemon or saltwater. However, if the bumps in the throat remain for extended periods of time and show signs of growth, you should immediately visit a doctor as the issue may be serious.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.