What are complications of pharyngitis (sore throat)?

Updated: May 06, 2020
  • Author: John R Acerra, MD; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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  • General complications of pharyngitis (mainly seen in cases of bacterial pharyngitis) include sinusitis, otitis media, epiglottitis, mastoiditis, and pneumonia.

    • Suppurative complications of bacterial pharyngitis result from spread of infection from pharyngeal mucosa via hematogenous, lymphatic, or direct extension (more common with GAS); peritonsillar abscess; retropharyngeal abscess; or suppurative cervical lymphadenitis. It is unclear if antibiotic therapy can prevent these complications as abscess isolates are often polymicrobial. Many experts believe these are actually independent entities and not related to GAS pharyngitis.

  • In addition to the above general complications, nonsuppurative complications (3% incidence) specific to GAS infection include acute rheumatic fever (3-5 wk postinfection), poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis, and toxic shock syndrome.

  • Complications of infectious mononucleosis include splenic rupture (contact sports should be avoided for 6 wk), hepatitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, encephalitis, hemolytic anemia, agranulocytosis, myocarditis, B-cell lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Use of penicillin in cases of infectious mononucleosis results in near 100% incidence of rash. [17]

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