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White Spots in the Throat - Potential Causes of Disease Patches in Children and Adults

Updated on January 16, 2014
A candida albicans culture, commonly known as thrush
A candida albicans culture, commonly known as thrush | Source

White spots on the back of the throat have long been a dreaded symptom of strep throat. Concerned mothers often watch closely for this classic sign. Just because your child exhibits white spots on the back of the throat, does not necessarily mean that he or she has any contagious condition. There are many different causes for white spots on the back of the throat.

Some of the common causes for white spots on the back of the throat include mucous buildup, pus, or food particles stuck in your throat. Buildup in your throat can be the result of fungal or bacterial infections.

Bacterial Infection

One frequent cause for white spots on the back of the throat is called thrush, caused by the fungus candida. This is actually a yeast infection in your mouth and throat. White spots on the back of the throat and tongue is the main symptom of thrush. This type of oral yeast infection can happen to just about anyone, but some people are especially at risk. Children, those with diabetes, those taking antibiotics, and those with weak immune systems are at risk for contracting thrush.

If your child goes to school or daycare, or is otherwise in regular contact with other children, then there's a good chance that he or she may get thrush. Contact your doctor to get a definite diagnosis, and make sure to practice very careful hygiene until any recommended treatments are complete.

Tonsil Stones

White spots on the back of the throat are most closely associated with strep throat, despite the fact that this is not the only common cause. Another reason for white spots on the back of the throat is a condition called tonsilloliths, which are commonly called tonsil stones. Tonsilloliths can cause big white spots on the back of the throat as debris gathers in the grooves at the back of your throat.

These so-called tonsil stones are fairly benign and not a communicable condition. If left untreated, they can become a nuisance. Tonsil stones can cause discomfort such as itchiness and inflammation, and can produce a foul odor. Those who have had their tonsils removed can not get tonsilloliths.

Strep Throat

Sometimes, the white spots in the back of your throat are strep throat. In some cases, strep and thrush are indistinguishable by appearance alone. If conservative measures such as saltwater gargles don't work, then your doctor may want to take a swab of the white spots. This will be cultured to positively identify the infectious agent, and to explore the options for medication.

Regardless of what you think might be causing the white spots in the back of your throat, it's always a good idea to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional. Many conditions can closely mimic each other, and it sometimes takes a trained clinical eye and specific testing to make sure you know what you're dealing with.

What does strep throat actually look like?

...compared to tonsilloliths


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    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for an interesting hub. I had my tonsils removed when I was a child. Glad to hear I can never get tonsil stones. Sounds horrible!


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