Tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the tonsils caused by either viruses or bacteria. Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system located at the back of the throat. Tonsils trap the bacteria and other germs entering the body and protect you from developing infections.
Conditions affecting the tonsils include acute tonsillitis, chronic tonsillitis, peritonsillar abscess, and enlargement of tonsils. Acute tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the tonsils caused by bacteria or viruses, characterized by symptoms such as sore throat often associated with fever. Chronic tonsillitis is recurrent infection of the tonsils. Peritonsillar abscess is accumulation of pus behind the tonsils. Enlargement of tonsils may cause obstruction in breathing leading to sleep disturbances.
Tonsillitis is usually caused by infection of tonsils by viruses and bacteria. Common bacterium responsible for tonsillitis is Streptococcus pyogenes. Tonsillitis is contagious whether caused by viral or bacterial infection.
If you have tonsillitis you may experience sore throat, difficulty and pain with swallowing. You may also have cough, changes in voice, nasal congestion, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, fever, rashes, and ear pain. The affected tonsils appear red and swollen with white patches.
Your doctor will ask your medical history and performs physical examination. During physical examination, your doctor looks inside your mouth and throat to look for the swollen tonsil glands. Other tests performed to confirm tonsillitis include:
- Strep test: A sterile swab of the throat secretions is collected and sent off to the laboratory to assess for streptococcal bacteria, Strep throat
- Blood test: A complete blood count (CBC) may be requested which helps to identify the cause of your infection
Treatment options may include:
- Over the countermedications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be recommended to relieve throat pain and fever
- Antibiotics such aspenicillin or erythromycin may be prescribed for 10 to 14 days
- Drink plenty offluids to prevent dehydration. Gargling with warm salt water may help in reducing sore throat pain
- Surgery to removethe tonsils, known as tonsillectomy may be indicated in patients with recurrent or persistent infections