Strep throat causes | Dr. Neetu Modgil
The name strep throat comes from the causative microorganisms – streptococcal bacteria. These bacteria cause inflammation and swelling in the mucosal membrane that lines the back of the throat and tonsils.
Strep throat causes: An infection by a streptococcus bacterium causes sore throat, which is very common in teens and school-aged children (5 to 15 years of age). Nearly about 40% of cases of sore throat in this age group are caused by streptococcus bacteria. This type of sore throat must be addressed promptly with in-time diagnosis and treatment as it may prolong and become severe and problematic. Though Strep throat is common in children, it can also occur in adults.
Strep Throat Causes
Streptococcus pyogenes invades the pharyngeal tissue and cause inflammation and swelling in the throat and tonsils. These bacteria belong to group A streptococcus. Apart from the throat, they are also found on the skin and cause skin infection (impetigo) in some individuals. Group A streptococcus present on the skin and in the throat do not cause infection or any disease in some individuals – owing to which such individuals remain asymptomatic, but are still infectious.
Strep throat in adults is seen less frequently – less than 5% to 10% of adults get strep throat as compared to children. It is prevalent in school-going children due to close proximity of healthy students with infected students.
Viral or bacterial sore throat
Sore throat is often caused by viral infections; however, strep throat is one of the common bacterial causes of sore throat. In general, a typical sore throat caused by a virus gets better on its own – and therefore, doesn’t respond to treatment with antibiotics. Therefore, it is very important for the Ent specialist to know the exact cause of sore throat (identification of the causative agent of sore throat) prior to initiating treatment. This is essential owing to the potential complications associated with the sore throat caused by strep bacteria.
Strep throat is contagious
Streptococcus bacteria also cause similar types of symptoms like a sore throat. The infection caused by streptococcus bacteria spread through nasal secretions and saliva expelled during sneezing and coughing.
When a person comes in contact with the nasal secretions, droplets (respiratory droplets), or saliva from an infected person, he or she may get strep throat. Therefore, cases of strep throat are often found in situations where people are in close contact with others – as seen in colleges, schools, hospitals, universities, and other such places.
Strep throat symptoms
Symptoms associated with strep throat manifest rather gradually (2 to 5 days after acquiring the infection – incubation period). In the beginning, the back of the throat and tonsils appear red, inflamed, and swollen. Gradually swallowing difficulty becomes prominent and pain is felt due to which some of the infected individuals suffer from dehydration. The other signs and symptoms associated with strep throat may include the appearance of small red spots on the roof of the mouth, headache, abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite.
Diagnosis of strep throat
Diagnosing strep throat based only on symptoms is often a very trivial task for the physicians as both viruses and bacteria cause similar sort of symptoms. However, strep throat is more likely to be associated with some specific symptoms – such as fever, inflammation, swollen lymph nodes and tonsils, red and inflamed throat and appearance of white spots on the tonsils.
When you see a doctor for a sore throat, he or she will diagnose the cause based on the signs and symptoms you have. If the doctor suspects a strep throat after noticing white spots in your throat with inflammation, fever and swollen lymph nodes, then he or she may order a rapid strep test or go for a lab culture.
When to seek medical help?
It is very difficult for you to know the exact cause of your sore throat without being thoroughly examined and evaluated by an ENT specialist. There are several other conditions that mimic the symptoms associated with a sore throat – such as retropharyngeal abscess, peritonsillar abscess, tracheitis, and epiglottitis. Therefore, if you have a fever, sore throat and other associated symptoms, you should consider seeking medical help. In addition, if you are undergoing treatment for strep throat for the past 4 to 5 days with no improvement, then consider seeking medical advice.
You should seek medical help if you suspect that you have a sore throat and fever with the following associated symptoms: difficulty swallowing and breathing and inability to open the mouth; throat pain and swelling in the neck.