Tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils, which are lymphoid tissue at the back of the throat. Symptoms can vary, but often include a very sore throat, difficult or painful swallowing, bad breath, fever or chills, jaw or neck tenderness, or a raspy-sounding voice. The tonsils may appear red and swollen and have white or yellow spots on them.
It is a contagious illness when caused by a virus, so be sure to limit exposure to others and maintain good hand-washing hygiene. Children are more likely to contract tonsillitis, but it can affect adults as well.
Tonsillitis caused by streptococcal bacteria is known as strep throat. Other bacterial and viral causes create nearly the same symptoms, which may be helped by sipping warm drinks, sucking on throat lozenges, gargling warm salt water or using over-the-counter pain medications.
Diagnosis will include a physical examination of the throat and either a throat swab or throat culture to identify the cause. A complete blood test may also be done. If the cause of tonsillitis is found to be viral, a test for mononucleosis may also be done.
Treatment for tonsillitis (those cases not associated with a cold) usually begins with antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection. If the tonsillitis is persistent and recurring, a surgery known as a tonsillectomy may be scheduled.
In a tonsillectomy, the tonsils are surgically removed from the throat using coblation, which create a low-temperature plasma field that cuts and cauterizes simultaneously. Typically, a tonsillectomy is an out-patient surgery, with two weeks of recovery time. Throat pain should be expected after a tonsillectomy and can last longer for adults than children. As with all surgical procedures, a tonsillectomy’s benefits should be weighed with its possible impacts. Your ear, nose and throat provider at National Sinus Institute will help you evaluate whether a tonsillectomy is right for you or your child.