What causes white spots in the throat?

White spots in the throat is a symptom that may refer to various infectious and dietary diseases due to an association with enlarged lymph nodes. The MediFind Medical Team has summarized 10 potential causes of white spots in the throat below in order from most likely to less likely based on our data. Learn more about how MediFind works here. You can also enter your symptoms into MediFind’s Symptom Checker to receive more customized results.

Mononucleosis

When paired with a pink rash, mononucleosis, which is an infection by the Epstein-Barr virus, can present along with inflamed tonsils that develop a white-yellow film. This may appear as white spots when observed in the mirror. Mononucleosis is extremely common in children, and it is usually treated by a primary care doctor. Find a primary care doctor near you here.

Measles

Koplik spots, or tiny white spots inside the mouth, are an indication of a measles infection, which comes from the measles virus. This commonly occurs with a persistent fever and a rash that lasts up to 7 days. Particularly if you have not had the MMR vaccine, consider maintaining safe distancing from others to avoid transmission. Measles is usually treated by a primary care doctor. Find a primary care doctor near you here.

Tonsillitis

Inflamed tonsils with a white-yellow film alongside a sore throat may be tonsillitis or pharyngitis, which originates from a bacterial or viral infection. Although quite mild with the right precautions and treatment, problems swallowing or breathing may indicate a severe infection in children. Tonsillitis is usually treated by a primary care doctor. Find a primary care doctor near you here.

Tonsilloliths

Also called tonsil stones, white calcium deposits on the tonsils, which may appear as white spots in the throat, are collections from mucous bacteria or food that clump and calcify. This may lead to pain and swelling until the stones are dislodged. Tonsilloliths are usually treated by a primary care doctor. Find a primary care doctor near you here.

Steven-Johnson Syndrome

Combined with blistering and peeling of the skin, white spots in the throat may indicate a rare condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. This rare disease is strongly associated with genetic variations in the HLA-B gene. Steven-Johnson Syndrome is usually treated by an ophthalmologist. Find an ophthalmologist near you here.

Adult Still’s Disease

Swollen lymph nodes, which may present as white spots in the throat, is one of many symptoms associated with Adult Still’s disease. This is a rare illness that leads to chronic arthritis. Adult Still’s Disease is usually treated by a rheumatologist. Find a rheumatologist near you here.

Toxoplasmosis

In those with healthy immune systems, swollen lymph nodes, which appear as white spots in the throat, may indicate toxoplasmosis. This rare infection by Toxoplasma gondii is transmitted via a great variety of birds and animals and mimics mononucleosis in a lot of its symptoms. Toxoplasmosis is usually treated by an immunologist. Find an immunologist near you here.  

Pityriasis Lichenoides

For white spots around the neck, pityriasis lichenoides can appear as a rare noninfectious rash that come together in groups of raised, sometimes pink, nodules. The cause of this is unknown but there may be some association with various infections such as Epstein-Barr virus or HIV. Pityriasis lichenoides is usually treated by a dermatologist. Find a dermatologist near you here.  

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Swollen lymph nodes, oftentimes noticed as white spots in the throat, is one of many symptoms for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is an infection caused by Rickettsia rickettsia. As the name implies, those hiking in the spring and summer may become infected from tick bites in areas like Colorado. Rocky mountain spotted fever is usually treated by a primary care doctor. Find a primary care doctor near you here.

Degos Disease

White spots around the neck, called macules, may indicate Degos disease, which is a rare blood vessel disorder. The cause of this is unknown but there is a strong association with lupus erythematosus. Degos disease is usually treated by a rheumatologist. Find a rheumatologist near you here.

Understanding the Results

These results are based on the most likely conditions for a 45 year old woman who is not pregnant, and is living in the United States. Our data shows that 96% of the time, this symptom is related to one of the 10 most likely causes. Location and age can also contribute to different results. Use our Symptom Checker to add your information and get your custom results.

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Differences in Age Groups

General infections that cause swollen lymph nodes, leading to white spots in the throat, are extremely common in children. Adults are more likely than children to experience rheumatological diseases which may also present as white or pink spots on the skin. Interactions with birds, animals, or ticks are of particular note but can affect all age groups.

Differences among Men and Women

There are not many distinguishing conditions among men and women when the symptom refers to white spots in the throat. Many of these infections affect both sexes equally.

Last Updated: March 16, 2022

Published By: Medifind Medical Staff