Chronic pharyngitis is a sore throat that persists for an extended period of time. Patients can develop this condition as a result of recurrent acute pharyngitis, where infections come and go within the span of about a week and keeping coming back. It can also occur in response to chronic inflammation caused by alcohol abuse, overuse of the voice, and cigarettes. Treatments for this condition vary, depending on the underlying cause.
In a patient with chronic pharyngitis, the throat remains irritated and sore for an extended period of time, and it may be punctuated by periodic flareups when the throat hurts even more than usual. The throat often appears red, raw, and swollen. Some patients cough and experience other symptoms, and hoarseness is very common. Fever, runny nose, and a general feeling of malaise are sometimes observed in people with persistent sore throats.
Immediate treatment can include anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the swelling in the throat and make the patient more comfortable, along with antibiotic or antiviral medications to kill infectious organisms in the throat. Warm water gargles and salt water rinses are sometimes used in the management of a sore throat, along with lozenges designed to relieve irritation and pain. The patient will be evaluated for lifestyle factors, and some of these may be addressed in treatment as well; for example, a smoker will be advised to cut back on smoking or quit entirely.
Singers who develop chronic pharyngitis will generally be advised to see a vocal coach once the irritation and pain have resolved. The coach can work with the singer to develop the voice and prevent future injuries to the throat. Some singers develop poor habits over time and risk their voices by singing without warming up or by pushing their voices beyond their normal range. Working with a singing coach can help singers avoid common pitfalls and reduce the risk of permanent damage to the voice.
People who experience recurrent sore throats, even if they don't develop chronic pharyngitis, may be evaluated to see if there is an underlying cause. Sore throats are often a sign of immune dysfunction, as normally the immune system should be robust enough to prevent throat infections. This can indicate that a patient has an underlying medical problem. Certain chronic illnesses are associated with soreness in and around the throat and patients may be evaluated for these conditions if they frequently complain of sore throats and do not seem to experience an improvement on medications like antibiotics.