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How do strep throat and regular sore throats differ?

What is the difference between strep throat and a regular sore throat? I'm 25 and I've got a horrible sore throat. I can hardly eat. I thought I might have the strep, but then I read that strep is caused by bacteria that are normally in the throat anyway. So what exactly is strep and how do I know if I have it?
Sore throat is a very common medical condition that is usually mild and does not require medical treatment. Strep throat, however, is a special kind of sore throat that usually should be evaluated. The physicians best qualified to discuss this issue with you include your primary care doctor. Most sore throats are associated with viral infections, such as the common cold, rather than sore throat. Signs that your sore throat is more likely a viral infection include if you have a cough, runny nose, or congestion. Strep throat, on the other hand, rarely causes cough, runny nose, or other typical cold symptoms. Strep throat is more likely if you have large swollen glands in your neck, thick white material on your tonsils, or severe sore throat without cough. Diagnosing strep throat can be done by a throat swab taken by your doctor. It is important to diagnose strep throat because treatment with antibiotics can prevent a rare heart complication of the infection and may lesson throat pain by 1-2 days. If the throat swab is negative, however, there is no advantage to taking antibiotics. As always, the diagnosis and management of your specific condition will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Scheduling an office visit with your primary care doctor is recommended.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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