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What is tonsillitis?
Tonsils are the two lymph nodes located on each side of the back of your throat. They function as a defense mechanism. They help prevent your body from infection. When the tonsils become infected, the condition is called tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis can occur at any age and is a common childhood infection. It is most often diagnosed in children from preschool age through their mid-teens. Symptoms include a sore throat, swollen tonsils, and fever.
This condition is contagious and can be caused by a variety of common viruses and bacteria, such as streptococcal bacteria, which causes strep throat. Tonsillitis caused by strep throat can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Tonsillitis is easily diagnosed. Symptoms usually go away within seven to 10 days.
Some problems associated with tonsils
Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. A sore throat is the common symptom. In addition, you may also have a cough, high temperature (fever), and headache, feel sick, feel tired, find swallowing painful, and have swollen neck glands. Pus may appear as white spots on the enlarged tonsils. Symptoms typically get worse over 2-3 days and then gradually go, usually within a week. Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by viruses, some are caused by bacteria.
Glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis)
Infectious mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It tends to cause a severe bout of tonsillitis in addition to other symptoms.
This is also known as peritonsillar abscess. An abscess is a collection of pus. Quinsy is an uncommon condition where an abscess develops next to a tonsil due to a bacterial infection. It usually develops just on one side. It may follow an episode of tonsillitis or may arise on its own. The tonsil on the affected side may be swollen or look normal, but is pushed towards the mid-line as pus forms and the abscess next to the tonsil gets bigger and bigger. Quinsy is very painful and can make you feel very unwell. It is treated with antibiotic medicines, but also the pus often needs to be drained with a small operation.
Cancer of the tonsil
This is a rare cancer. It is more common in smokers and those who drink a lot of alcohol.
Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. One sign is swelling of the tonsils. Other symptoms are:
- Redder than normal tonsils
- A white or yellow coating on the tonsils
- A slight voice change due to swelling
- Sore throat, sometimes accompanied by ear pain.
- Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
- Bad breath
Causes of tonsillitis
Tonsils are your first line of defense against illness. They produce white blood cells to help your body fight infection. The tonsils combat bacteria and viruses that enter your body through your mouth. However, tonsils are also vulnerable to infection from these invaders.
Tonsillitis can be caused by a virus, such as the common cold, or by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), an estimated 15 to 30 percent of tonsillitis cases are due to bacteria. Most often is it strep bacteria.
Viruses are the most common cause of tonsillitis. The Epstein-Barr virus can cause tonsillitis, which can also cause mononucleosis.
Children come into close contact with others at school and play, exposing them to a variety of viruses and bacteria. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the germs that cause tonsillitis.
How are tonsillitis infection treated?
Bacterial infections of the tonsils and adenoids are treated with various antibiotics. Tonsillitis caused by the Streptococcus bacteria can lead to serious complications. Once treatment begins, it is important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed because if you stop taking the drugs before they are finished it can lead to adverse consequences and regrowth of the bacteria. Surgical removal is considered in situations resistant to medical therapy or in frequently recurrent infections.
Viral causes of tonsillitis or enlarged adenoids are often treated with only supportive care (hydration and control of fever). Antibiotics are not effective for viral infection of the tonsils.
A peritonsillar abscess should be drained either by removal of fluid with a needle and syringe (needle aspiration), cutting open with a scalpel (incision), or tonsillectomy. Chronic stones in the tonsil can be removed with a clean finger or with a blunt probe. Massive enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids causing airway obstruction may be treated with a long course of antibiotics, or even a brief course of steroids to reduce inflammation (cortisone-related medications, such as prednisone and prednisolone).