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Why Do I Have a Sore Throat on One Side

Sore throats are a common health issue, with 10% of individuals seeking primary healthcare services for this problem annually. The majority of these are due to bacterial or viral infections and can be managed at home. However, it’s not uncommon to experience a sore throat that only affects one side. Understanding the reasons behind such an occurrence can guide you in determining the appropriate treatment and knowing when it’s time to consult a doctor.


Possible Causes of Sore Throat

Various conditions might lead to pain on just one side of your throat. Some of these conditions typically cause discomfort on both sides, but can also affect just one side. Here are some potential causes:

  1. Tonsillitis: This condition arises when one or more of your tonsils gets infected or inflamed. It could occur on either or both sides. Treatments range from over-the-counter pain relievers, antibiotics to a tonsillectomy or surgical removal of the tonsils in severe cases.

  2. Postnasal drip: This happens when mucus gets trapped in your throat, leading to soreness and inflammation. It can sometimes occur on just one side. Contact your doctor if you experience swelling or pain with postnasal drip.

  3. Canker sores: These sores can form on your mucus membranes due to several factors such as injury, allergies, stress, irritants or disorders. They typically occur on one side of your throat, mouth, lips or cheeks.

  4. Swollen lymph nodes: As part of your immune system, lymph nodes combat illness. However, they may become swollen and painful if overwhelmed by infectious particles. Persistent swelling should be checked by a doctor as it could indicate lymphoma or other cancers.

  5. Tooth abscess or infection: Dental problems can lead to swelling of the head, neck or throat. If you experience tooth pain along with a one-sided sore throat, consult your dentist.

  6. GERD (acid reflux): If digestive issues or indigestion accompany your sore throat, you may be dealing with GERD. Your doctor can assist with treatment options.

  7. Laryngitis: This is an infection in the voice box, often resulting from allergies, overuse of the voice, smoking, or other infections.

  8. Peritonsillar abscess: This condition is a complication from tonsillitis that typically affects one side of the throat.

  9. Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia and Trigeminal Neuralgia: These nerve conditions can arise due to dental work, trauma, facial swelling or tumors. The pain usually occurs on one side.

  10. Head or neck cancers: Persistent pain on one side of the throat could indicate head or neck cancer.


If a sore throat, whether affecting one side or the entire throat, persists for more than a week without improvement, you should see a doctor. Your treatment will be determined by the underlying cause, and your doctor can guide you through symptom management options.


While not all causes of a one-sided sore throat are alarming, they often share similar origins with regular sore throats. If you’re uncertain about what’s causing your sore throat or want relief, contact the medical professionals at Topeka Ear Nose & Throat to schedule an appointment.

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