Infections - Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Tonsillitis: What are its Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment?

By S.I. (staff writer) , published on August 01, 2023

Medicine Telehealth Health tonsils infection

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is a common condition characterised by inflammation and infection of the tonsils, which are located at the back of the throat. It can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty swallowing.




What are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

The symptoms of tonsillitis can vary depending on the underlying cause and individual factors. Common signs and symptoms include:


  • Sore Throat: Tonsillitis often presents with a sore throat that can be mild to severe. The throat may feel scratchy, tender, or raw, making it uncomfortable to swallow.


  • Swollen Tonsils: Inflamed tonsils can become enlarged and red. They may be covered in a whitish or yellowish coating or have visible white spots.


  • Difficulty Swallowing: Swollen tonsils can make it difficult and painful to swallow food, liquids, or even saliva.


  • Tonsil Stones: Tonsillitis can sometimes cause the formation of small, hard, whitish or yellowish stones in the tonsils' crevices. These are known as tonsil stones and can contribute to bad breath. [1]


  • Sore Throat and Ear Pain: Some individuals with tonsillitis may experience referred pain, where the discomfort extends to the ears.




What are the Causes of Tonsillitis?

Viral or bacterial infections primarily cause tonsillitis. The most common causes include:


  • Viral Infections: Viruses such as the common cold, influenza, and Epstein-Barr (which causes infectious mononucleosis) can lead to tonsillitis. These infections are highly contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets. [2]


  • Bacterial Infections: Group A Streptococcus bacteria are the most common bacteria responsible for bacterial tonsillitis, also known as strep throat. Other bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Hemophilus influenzae, can also cause tonsillitis. [3]




Treatment Options for Tonsillitis:

The treatment of tonsillitis depends on the underlying cause, severity of symptoms, and individual factors. Treatment options may include:


  • Rest and Fluid Intake: Getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated by consuming fluids, such as water, warm tea, or soup, can help support recovery and relieve symptoms.


  • Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help alleviate throat pain and reduce fever. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen.


  • Antibiotics: Bacterial tonsillitis caused by Group A Streptococcus bacterium is usually treated with antibiotics, such as penicillin or amoxicillin. It is crucial to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if symptoms improve. [4]


  • Warm Saltwater Gargles: Gargling with warm salt water can provide temporary relief by reducing throat inflammation and soothing discomfort. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle several times a day.


  • Surgical Removal: In recurrent or severe cases of tonsillitis, a healthcare professional may recommend a tonsillectomy, which involves the surgical removal of the tonsils. This procedure is typically considered when other treatment options fail or when complications arise. [5]















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