Jason Hamilton (Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon) gives expert video advice on: Why should I be concerned if I am hoarse?; Can I treat a sore throat myself or should I see a doctor? and more...
What are the most common throat diseases or disorders?
The most common throat disorder by far is tonsillitis. It more commonly effects children and is usually treated with a tonsillectomy. Strep throat is also very common and can be treated easily with antibiotics. Some of the other throat disorders are swallowing problems that patients may have either due to age or infection or neurologic problems if they have suffered a stroke.
Why do I sometimes get hoarse?
Hoarseness can be caused for several reasons. Typically it's from vocal abuse, meaning that you're out at a concert and screaming for your favorite rock star. It's usually a minor nuisance so it's nothing to worry about. The voice rests for a few days and some warm fluids will also help resolve the symptoms. Hoarseness that lasts for more than two weeks must be evaluated by a physician, as that could be the sign of a tumor growing on the vocal cords.
What causes hoarseness?
It's just not normal to be hoarse. Typically, anyone who's hoarse for more than two weeks, there's usually something wrong with their vocal cords, meaning they'll have nodules, they could have papillomas or warts that involve the vocal cords, or there could be a cancer there. The other reason for hoarseness could be that one of the cords is paralyzed, and the paralysis can come anywhere from the brain, from the chest, from the neck, or the vocal cord itself. Typically, any paralysis of the vocal cord or hoarseness, until proven otherwise, means you have a tumor.
Why should I be concerned if I am hoarse?
Hoarseness is caused in a change in the vibrations of the vocal cords themselves. The vocal cords are usually symmetric in their vibration, and anything that causes swelling, inflammation, or obstruction of the vocal cords themselves can cause hoarseness. The worry that all laryngologists have is that your hoarseness may be caused by something like a tumor. Typically if it's picked up early, it's easily treated, usually with 99 percent cure rates for cancer. If the hoarseness is left unchecked, typically patients may lose their entire voice box over the hoarseness. So it should be evaluated earlier than later, and the diagnosis is usually made with a quick exam that's very painless.
What causes a sore throat?
A sore throat is usually caused by either an infection (a bacteria that's causing inflammation) or more commonly dryness. Typically, when we have a cold and can't breathe through our nose, the air doesn't have the ability to be humidified, so we breathe through our mouth, and when we breathe through our mouth we're breathing dry air and our throat becomes cracked, and when it becomes cracked we feel pain. So often, there's no infection in the throat when someone has a cold. It's just the throat is painful because it's dry. That's why drinking fluids or using a humidifier when you're mouth breathing will help to moisturize the air for you.
Can I treat a sore throat myself or should I see a doctor?
If your having significant throat pain again that lasts more than a week you should probably see your physician. The reason why is because strep throat is a very serious condition that is easily treated by antibiotics. Strep throat left untreated can cause problems like rheumatic fever, problems with the heart and lungs and kidneys and can even lead to death. So simple soar throat that is associated with a cold that goes away with in a week can probably be treated at home with tylenol, teas or chicken soup. Anything that lasts more than a week should probably be evaluated by a physician to make sure you don't have a strep infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.
What should I do if I have sores in my mouth?
Sores in the mouth are typically caused by viral infections. They can affect the cheeks, the tongue, or the pallet, and they usuallly look like small white ulcerations that are usually benign and pass pretty quickly. Sometimes sores in the mouth can be early signs of a cancer. So any sore in your mouth that lasts for more than a week or two should be evaluated by a laryncologist and possibly biopsy to rule out any evidence of carcinoma. Fever blisters, or a cold sore, is caused by a herpes virus, and some of the lesions inside the mouth are caused by a herpes virus as well and they look very similar. So, they can both be spread actually, but typically a canker sore inside the mouth is usually caused by a local trauma, meaning that someone hit their gums with a toothbrush, and that's what people say, "I have a canker sore". A real ulceration in the mouth that kind of comes and goes is usually caused by the same virus that causes a fever blister, so it actually can be spread as well.