Ear Nose & Throat Surgery

Tonsillitis

Introduction to Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is a condition where the the tonsils at the back of the throat (two small glands), become inflamed, usually due to an infection.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is a condition where the the tonsils at the back of the throat (two small glands), become inflamed, usually due to an infection. The infection is usually caused by a virus, but more rarely bacteria can be the causative agent.

It is a very common condition which usually resolves on its own. Sometimes, in complicated cases, antibiotics may be required or further treatment from an ENT specialist. It is especially common in children, teenagers and young adults. You should see your doctor if you do not improve within four days or are having difficulty trouble eating, drinking or breathing.

What are the causes for Tonsillitis?

The most common cause of tonsillitis is a virus. These viruses are present in many people’s throat and nose area but can sometimes cause an infection. The virus is similar to the viruses that cause the common cold or flu. Less commonly, bacteria can cause infection and this needs to be treated with medication – such bacteria include group A streptococcus bacteria.

These infections are easily spread when you are infected and it is therefore recommended that you exclude yourself from busy places, prevent spread of droplets with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and maintain good hygiene, especially of your hands.

What are the symptoms of Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis usually presents as sore throat that can cause pain when swallowing. As the throat is associated with the nose and ears, these may be affected too. You may feel generally unwell with a fever. Headaches are common and you may have a cough as well. Viral tonsillitis may cause your lymph nodes to become swollen. These are small nodules in your body that swell up with some infections.

Bacterial tonsillitis may cause white spots on the tonsils and uncommonly causes a cough or swollen lymph nodes.

If your breathing, or ability to eat and drink are compromised, you should seek medical attention. You should also go to see your doctor if the symptoms do not resolve within 4 days of onset.

How is Tonsillitis treated?

Depending on the cause you may or may not need antibiotics. If the tonsillitis fails to resolve within a few days, you may be prescribed antibiotics as it is likely that a bacteria is the cause of the infection. Antibiotics are not effective in viral tonsillitis.

In severe cases, the tonsils may be so swollen that you need to visit a hospital to get them drained or to maintain your airway.

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