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A sore throat is an uncomfortable part of being sick. But sometimes, your whole throat doesn’t get sore. What does it mean when only one side of your throat is sore? As it turns out, there are several possible causes for this literal pain in the neck.


Tonsillitis is when your tonsils are inflamed by a viral or bacterial infection. If only one of the tonsils is infected, only one side of your throat will hurt.

Tonsil stones

Leighanne Dorton, MD

Debris such as mucus, dead cells, and even skin can get stuck in the crevices of your tonsils. This buildup is called tonsil stones, CEENTA ENT doctor Leighanne Dorton, MD, said. While people don’t always know they have them, in some cases they can grow large enough to cause a sore throat and trouble swallowing. Like with tonsillitis, they can affect just one tonsil.

An abscess

An abscess is an infection that creates an isolated collection of pus in your body. A peritonsillar abscess is one that forms behind one of your tonsils and is often related to bacterial tonsillitis. Your throat will feel much sorer on the side with the abscess.

Swollen lymph nodes

When you are sick, your lymph nodes help trap germs so the infection doesn’t spread. When they swell, they can make your throat feel sore. If you have an infection such as strep throat, an ear infection, a cold, the flu, an ear infection, or a tooth infection, your lymph nodes may swell.

Postnasal drip

If you have a cold or other congestion, and your nose is runny, fluid may drain down the back of your throat. Constant drainage could irritate your throat, particularly one side.

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is when stomach acid reverses direction out of the stomach and into the esophagus and possibly the throat and upper airway. Acid reflux can be worse when you’re lying down. So, someone with acid reflux who sleeps on one side may find the acid affecting one side of their throat.

An injury

If you burn yourself with hot food or scrape your throat with food that has a sharp edge, you could hurt one side of your throat.

Vocal cord lesions

If you misuse your voice or use it too much, you can injure it. This can cause a lesion to form on one side of the throat.


All these conditions have other symptoms beyond just a sore throat. It’s important to discuss all of them with your doctor to determine the specific cause.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Dorton practices in our Salisbury office. To make an appointment with her or any of CEENTA’s ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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November 10, 2020

I HAVE sever pain and burning sensation on left side of throat specially around tonsil with ear pain inside .i have taken amoxicillin. but the pain is not gone. my tonsil and uvula are not swollen but red with blood vessels visible around it. it has been 6 months since it started .i think the cause is GERD. is there other solution other than antibiotics and anti acid .
- semalign

November 10, 2020

Good morning. We cannot make recommendations on how individual patients should treat their cases without seeing them in person. If you live in the Charlotte, NC, region and would like an appointment with one of our doctors, please call 704-295-3000. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

July 18, 2020

For the past two day I had one swollen tonsil? I woke up this morning and now that side recovered but now my other tonsil is swollen. What could this be?
- Diana O.

July 20, 2020

Good morning. We cannot diagnose individual patients without seeing them, so we recommend you see a doctor. If you live in the Charlotte region and would like an appointment with a CEENTA physician, call 704-295-3000. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 07, 2020

I have throat pain one side , but sometimes it hurt in other side also .
- Gayana

May 07, 2020

Good morning. If you live in the Charlotte region and would like an appointment with one of our doctors, or you live in the United States and would like a virtual visit with one of them, please call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

March 02, 2020

left side of my of throat sometimes gets a very cold feeling and there is a small white blob by that tonsil. throat is feels like something is caught. Had this problem for about 2 weeks.
- Jeff

March 03, 2020

Good morning. We recommend making an appointment with a doctor for an examination. If you live in the Charlotte region and would like an appointment at CEENTA, please call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 02, 2019

Ive had slight pain in the right side of my throat when swallowing for almost 2 weeks. I did have a cold Pryor is this cancer im freaking out
- Brandon

May 02, 2019

Good afternoon. We cannot diagnose patients over the Internet, so we recommend making an appointment with your doctor. You can schedule one with a CEENTA doctor by calling 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

April 07, 2019

Ive had pain in the back of my throat on the one side for several years had ct scan MRI cant find nothing no else to talk too in constant pain but I've recently discovered by taking paracetamol and ibuprofen with in 20 mins pain completely gone but then comes back the following day
- Chris obrien

April 08, 2019

Good morning. We recommend you make an appointment with your doctor, as we cannot diagnose specific cases over the Internet.
Reply From: CEENTA

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