Cobblestone throat is a term doctors use to describe an irritated throat with visible bumps and lumps at the back. The bumps are caused by enlarged lymphatic tissue in the tonsils and adenoids, which are pockets of tissue in the back of your throat.
This tissue often becomes inflamed or irritated in response to extra mucus in the throat. While it can look alarming, cobblestone throat is usually harmless and easy to treat.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes cobblestone throat and how to tell if it could be something more serious.
Cobblestone throat is usually due to irritation from postnasal drip, which refers to extra mucus dripping down the back of your throat. Mucus is produced by glands in your nose and throat. It helps to moisten dry air, clean your nasal passages, trap harmful pathogens, and prevent foreign materials from being inhaled.
However, some conditions can increase mucus production or make your mucus thicker. Postnasal drip happens when this extra mucus accumulates in the back of your throat, where it can cause irritation and cobblestoning in the throat.
Many things can cause postnasal drip, such as:
- seasonal allergies
- cold, dry air
- respiratory infections
- certain medications, including birth control pills
- laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), a type of acid reflux that causes stomach acid to work its way up to your throat
Treating a cobblestone throat involves treating the mucus-producing condition that’s causing it to appear in the first place.
For causes related to allergies or infections, over-the-counter decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), can help to break up extra mucus. Antihistamines can also help. Just make sure to go for a non-sedating option, such as loratadine (Claritin). Traditional antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can actually make postnasal drip symptoms worse. Your doctor may also suggest using a steroid nasal spray.
For extra mucus related to medication, talk to your doctor. They may be able to change your dosage or swap it out for a different medication that doesn’t have the same side effects.
If your cobblestone throat is related to LPR, you may need to make some lifestyle changes to manage your symptoms, including:
- losing weight
- quitting smoking
- limiting your alcohol consumption
- avoiding acidic foods, such as citrus, tomatoes, and chocolate
If you’re still having LPR symptoms, you may need to take medication, such as proton pump inhibitors, antacids, or H2 blockers to reduce stomach acid.
As its name implies, a cobblestone throat has a pebble-like appearance. Depending on what’s causing it, you might also notice:
- a constant dry cough
- feeling like you constantly need to clear your throat
- feeling like something’s caught in your throat
- a sore throat
- bad breath
Lumps and bumps that appear anywhere on your body can spark fear of cancer. However, cobblestone throat isn’t considered to be a sign of any type of cancer. If you’re worried about cancer around your throat, tell your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms in addition to cobblestone throat, especially if they don’t seem to go away:
- ear pain
- a lump on your neck
- unexplained weight loss
- trouble swallowing
Cobblestone throat is almost always a harmless condition caused by extra mucus in your throat. While its bumpy appearance can be worrisome, it’s not associated with any type of cancer. Work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing the extra mucus to drip down your throat so you can start to treat it.