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Tonsilitis: Introduction

Tonsillitis is an acute swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the tonsils. Tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection or a viral infection. The most common bacterial infection that causes tonsillitis is strep throat, caused by a group A streptococcal infection of the tonsils and throat.

The tonsils are two glands located in the back of the throat. The tonsils belong to the lymphatic system and the immune system and help to protect the body from upper respiratory infections. The role of the tonsils is especially important in young children. Tonsillitis can occur to anyone with tonsils but is most common in children.

When a bacterial infection or a viral infection causes tonsillitis, the throat and tonsils become red, swollen, and white patches of pus may appear on the tonsils. Other symptoms of tonsillitis include pain with swallowing, difficulty swallowing, headache, fever, and swollen glands (swollen lymph nodes). Complications of tonsillitis are possible in some cases. Complications can include cervical adenitis and tonsil abscess. For additional symptoms and more information about complications, refer to symptoms of tonsillitis.

The bacterial infections and viral infections that cause tonsillitis are contagious and spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. This shoots droplets contaminated with bacteria or a virus into the air where they can be breathed in by others. Bacterial infections and viral infections that cause tonsillitis can also spread by touching an infected person or a contaminated surface, such as a contaminated drinking glass or computer keyboard.

Making a diagnosis of tonsillitis involves taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam. This includes examining the throat for the typical signs of tonsillitis. These include swelling, redness and irritation of the throat and tonsils and the presence of pockets of pus on the tonsils.

At this time a throat culture and sensitivity is also performed. A throat culture and sensitivity involves swabbing the tonsils and tonsils with a cotton swab and growing and examining the sample under a microscope for a possible bacterial infection, such as a group A streptococcal infection. This test can take up to two days. A similar but quicker test that can be done in less than half an hour is also often performed. This is called a rapid strep test, which can check for a group A streptococcal infection.

An examination also includes feeling the lymph glands for signs of swelling.

Blood tests, may be performed If a person with tonsillitis is very ill, has a high fever, signs of an infection in other areas of the body, or has had symptoms for more than two weeks. Blood tests may include a complete blood count, which tests for an abnormally high number of white blood cells. This indicates an infectious process occurring in the body.

Because tonsillitis can mimic mononucleosis, a rapid test called a monospot may also be done to check for mononucleosis. A monospot test might be performed in conjunction with a blood test that checks for the presence of specific antibodies that the body produces to fight mononucleosis.

It is possible that a diagnosis of tonsillitis can be delayed or overlooked because the symptoms may resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as mononucleosis. For information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic tonsillitis, refer to misdiagnosis oftonsillitis.

Treatment of tonsillitis includes measures to help relieve symptoms and keep the body as strong as possible to minimize the risk of developing complications. This includes rest, medications to ease body aches and fever, and drinking plenty of fluids. People who are in good health can generally recover from the tonsillitis at home with supportive care, such as rest, fluids, and pain relievers. Antibiotics are only prescribed if the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, such as in strep throat. Surgery may be necessary in some cases. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of tonsillitis. ...more »

Tonsilitis: Tonsilitis is a common infection or inflammation of the tonsils in the back of the throat. Tonsilitis can lead to serious insidious complications such as sleep apnea. Snoring can also be a sign of tonsilitis or other tonsil disorders. See also adenoiditis and the adenoids, which are related to the tonsils. ...more »

Tonsilitis: Symptoms

Symptoms of tonsillitis can vary somewhat among individuals but generally include sore throat and swollen tonsils. Infection of the tonsils by a virus or bacteria may result in the formation of visible white colored patches or pockets of pus on the tonsils. This can lead to a bad taste in the mouth and bad breath.

Other symptoms may include pain with swallowing, difficulty swallowing ...more symptoms »

Tonsilitis: Treatments

Treatment of tonsillitis begins with preventing the spread of the virus or bacterium that can cause it. Prevention measures include avoiding contact with people who have tonsillitis. Preventive measures also include covering your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough and washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. It is also important to ...more treatments »

Tonsilitis: Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosing tonsillitis is possible because the symptoms of tonsillitis can mimic other diseases, such as influenza, cold, mononucleosis, pharyngitis, pharyngitis, lymphoma, and upper respiratory infection. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Tonsilitis

Treatments for Tonsilitis

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Tonsilitis?

Tonsilitis: Related Patient Stories

Tonsilitis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Tonsilitis.

Alternative Treatments for Tonsilitis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Tonsilitis may include:

  • Aconite homeopathic remedy
  • Mercurius homeopathic remedy
  • Hepar sulph homeopathic remedy
  • Lachesis homeopathic remedy
  • Belladonna homeopathic remedy
  • more treatments »

Types of Tonsilitis

Diagnostic Tests for Tonsilitis

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Tonsilitis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Tonsilitis:

Causes of Tonsilitis

More information about causes of Tonsilitis:

Disease Topics Related To Tonsilitis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Tonsilitis:

Tonsilitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Tonsilitis

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Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff" more »

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Tonsilitis: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Tonsilitis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Tonsilitis:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Tonsilitis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Prognosis for Tonsilitis

Research about Tonsilitis

Visit our research pages for current research about Tonsilitis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Tonsilitis

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Tonsilitis include:

Statistics for Tonsilitis

Tonsilitis: Broader Related Topics

Tonsilitis Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Tonsilitis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Definitions of Tonsilitis:

Inflammation of the tonsils, especially the palatine tonsils. It is often caused by a bacterium. Tonsillitis may be acute, chronic, or recurrent. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Inflammation of the tonsils (especially the palatine tonsils) - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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