Strep Throat (cont.)

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What are the pharynx and pharyngitis?

The pharynx is the area behind the palate in the back of the throat shared by the oral cavity and the nasal cavity. An infection or inflammation of the pharynx is called pharyngitis. The infectious causes are similar to those causing tonsillitis, which are mainly related to viruses and less commonly to bacterial infection. As with the term “tonsillitis,” the diagnosis of "pharyngitis" does not imply a specific cause.

Because it is difficult to always distinguish exactly between pharyngitis and tonsillitis, throat infections are commonly referred to as tonsillopharyngitis, which signifies an infection of these adjacent areas of the throat.

Viral causes of throat infection

Viruses are the most common cause of throat infection in children and in adults. Many types of viruses are known to cause throat infection, and their symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from those of a bacterial infection. In addition, there are a large number of physical exam findings common to both viral and bacterial caueses of tonsillopharyngitis.

Throat infections caused by viruses usually occur in non-winter months.

Bacterial causes of throat infection

Bacterial causes of throat infections (tonsillopharyngitis) require further attention from individuals (and their parents or caregiver if the sick person is a child) and physicians.

Streptococcus, or strep, is the most frequently found bacterial cause of sore throat.

The commonly known strep throat is due to only one member of the Streptococcus family of bacteria. This certain streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes) belongs to the Group A Streptococcus bacteria (GAS for short). This group of bacteria is also known to cause skin infections, soft tissue infections, and pneumonia (lung infection).

There are many other bacteria that may also cause throat infections. Group A Streptococcus is the most common cause in children and adolescents. Mycoplasma, Neisseria, Corynebacterium, Yersinia, and non-Group A Strep bacteria are some of the other bacterial causes of throat infection.

Bacterial throat infections typically occur in the winter months.

Picture of strep bacteria
Picture of strep bacteria

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/13/2012

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