White patches inside your throat are like the flag on your mailbox. When it’s up, it means “take a look inside”, or in this case, “take a look at your health”. Because white spots in the throat can have so many different causes, and because some of these causes can be quite serious, it’s best to have them checked out by your healthcare provider.
In most cases, white patches in the throat indicate some type of infection. Here are some of the most common:
Strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection. It can be very painful and may be accompanied by a rash and/or red spots on the roof of your mouth. You may have a headache, fever, trouble swallowing and swollen glands in your neck. Testing for strep throat is fast and easy, involving a swab of your throat and a simple lab test. Strep throat is treated with antibiotics.
Infectious mononucleosis is another common cause of white patches in the throat. Symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, a rash, and a swollen spleen. Unlike strep throat, mononucleosis is usually not treated with antibiotics, since it is caused by a virus instead of a bacteria. Rest and fluids are the most commonly recommended treatments.
Oral thrush is a yeast infection that usually occurs in babies and older adults. It can cause white patches on the inside of the mouth that can spread down into the throat. It can be treated with anti-fungal medications.
Other causes of white patches include chemical exposure, potentially pre-cancerous spots known as leukoplakia, tonsillitis and sexually transmitted disease.