Allergies, infections, and illnesses might cause just one side of your throat to hurt. If the pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, it may be an early indicator of a more serious condition.
Sore throats may range from irritating to excruciating, and they typically affect both sides of the throat.
However, you may experience a sore throat on only one side, which may sometimes be accompanied by additional symptoms.
Keep reading to learn more about what might be causing your throat pain on one side.
Postnasal drip is when mucus drips down the back of your nose. This might feel like the mucus is collecting in your throat.
Glands in your nose and throat regularly produce about 1-2 quarts of mucus a day. However, you typically produce more mucus if you’re sick with an infection or have allergies. When this extra mucus accumulates and can’t drain properly, the feeling of it dripping down your throat may be uncomfortable.
Postnasal drip often irritates your throat, making it sore. You may feel this pain on only one side, especially in the morning after sleeping on your side.
Tonsillitis is inflammation of your tonsils, usually due to infection.
Your tonsils are two round balls of lymphatic tissue, one on each side in the back of your throat, just behind your tongue. Sometimes tonsillitis only affects one tonsil, causing a sore throat on one side.
- bad breath
- nasal congestion and runny nose
- swollen lymph nodes
- red, swollen tonsils covered with patches of pus
- difficulty swallowing
- abdominal pain
- raw, bleeding patches on the tonsils
A peritonsillar abscess is an infection that creates a walled-off collection of pus next to, and often behind, one of your tonsils. It usually begins as a complication of bacterial tonsillitis and is
While a peritonsillar abscess may cause generalized throat pain, the pain is usually much worse on the side of the affected tonsil.
Other symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess include:
- trouble opening your mouth
- trouble talking
- earache on the affected side
- bad breath
- soft, muffled voice
A peritonsillar abscess requires immediate medical attention.
Your doctor will likely use a needle or small incision to drain pus from the affected area. You might also be prescribed antibiotic therapy after the abscess is drained.
Canker sores are small sores that form in your mouth, either:
- on the inside of your cheeks
- on or under your tongue
- inside your lips
- at the top of your mouth near the back of your throat
Most canker sores are small and round with a red border and a white or yellow center.
While small, they can be quite painful. When a canker sore forms in a back corner of your throat, you may feel pain on one side.
Your lymph nodes help your body fight off infections. When they swell, it usually means there’s a problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection.
Lymph nodes usually swell in the area near an infection. For example, if you have strep throat the lymph nodes in your neck may swell. Sometimes only one lymph node will swell, causing a sore throat on one side.
They may cause recurrent, sudden, and excruciating pain around your:
- ear canal
- side of your face
Due to the location of nerves in your head and neck, the pain is usually on only one side of your face.
The pain of glossopharyngeal neuralgia is usually in the back of the throat or tongue. Swallowing often triggers it, and it typically lasts for a few seconds up to
The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is usually facial but sometimes can occur in the mouth. Pain can be sudden and episodic or prolonged and progressive. Touching your face, eating, or even wind blowing on your face may set off an episode.
Doctors usually treat both conditions with medications for neuropathic pain, such as:
A tooth abscess is a contained collection of pus caused by a bacterial infection. This pocket of pus grows at the tip of the root of your tooth. It can cause severe pain that radiates to your jawbone and your ear on one side of your face. The lymph nodes around your neck and throat may also be swollen and tender.
Other signs that your tooth is infected may include:
- sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- pain while chewing
- trouble swallowing
- swelling in your face or cheek
- tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
To treat your tooth abscess, a dentist may make an incision to drain the pus. You might also need an antibiotic.
Tooth abscess vs. TMJ dysfunction
A tooth abscess can often be mistaken for a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Both cause jaw and tooth pain. In some cases, TMJ dysfunction affects only one side. It may also cause throat symptoms.
Consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis to ensure you receive the appropriate treatment.
Laryngitis refers to inflammation in your voice box, also called your larynx. It’s usually due to overusing your voice, irritation, or a viral infection.
You have two vocal cords in your larynx that normally open and close smoothly to make sound. When the cords become swollen or irritated, you might feel pain and notice that your voice sounds different. If one cord is more irritated than the other, you may feel throat pain on only one side.
Other symptoms of laryngitis include:
Laryngitis often heals on its own within
While tonsil cancer can affect both tonsils, it usually affects just one. The primary symptom is one tonsil that is much larger than the other. This may cause a sore throat on one side.
Other symptoms of tonsil cancer
- ear pain on one side
- feeling a lump in your throat
- unexpected weight loss
- difficulty and pain when swallowing
Most sore throats are due to viral infections like the flu or common cold. In rare cases, it can be a sign of something more serious. Seek immediate medical treatment if you have any of the following symptoms:
- high fever
- difficulty breathing
- inability to swallow foods or liquids
- severe, unbearable pain
- abnormal, high-pitched breathing sounds (stridor)
- fast heart rate
- signs of an allergic reaction
If you have throat pain on one side that doesn’t go away after a few days, work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing it. They may prescribe antibiotic therapy or suggest OTC medications to relieve the pain or other symptoms.
How do you stop a sore throat on one side?
Treatment for a sore throat on one side depends on the underlying cause. However, treatments may include:
- home remedies, such as taking honey, gargling salt water, or drinking tea
- OTC medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or throat lozenges
- therapy, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- surgery, such as teeth removal
How long does a one-sided sore throat last?
The duration of a sore throat on one side depends on the cause. For example, a sore throat caused by the common cold may get better after 1 week, while pain caused by tonsil cancer may depend on whether treatment is an option. A sore throat may persist for weeks, months, or even years until treatment is completed.
A sore throat may cause general pain, or you may only feel it on one side. There are numerous causes for one-sided throat pain, which range from common ailments to serious medical conditions.
It’s important to speak with a doctor if you’re experiencing prolonged throat pain that worsens or is accompanied by other symptoms. This may be a sign of a health condition that needs medical treatment.