Tonsils come in a pair and are located at the back of the mouth, on either side. They are made of soft glandular tissue and play a key role in the immune system.
When the tonsils become infected this is what is known as tonsillitis; it has the following symptoms;
- Sore throat,
- Pain when swallowing
- Swollen neck glans
- White spots on the tonsils
Like any illness such as the cold or flu, there is a small chance that tonsillitis can be passed on to others (especially if you are in close contact).
If the infection is mild then no treatment is required as the tonsils will gradually self-heal. To speed up the process it is recommended that the patient has plenty of fluids, this may be painful but mild dehydration can make headaches and tiredness worse. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can ease pain, headaches and fever if taken at regular intervals, ensure that your stick to the recommended dosage displayed on the packet. To soothe a sore throat lozenges and sprays can be brought over the counter, bear in mind that they do not shorten the illness period. If a patient is suffering from recurring tonsillitis then surgery may be required in order to remove them, otherwise known as tonsillectomy. Surgery is suggested to those who have had seven or more occurrences in one year, five or more occurrences in two years, and three or more occurrences in three years. Surgery is also beneficial to those whose normal functioning is affected by the infection.
Tonsillectomy prevents further episodes of tonsillitis but the patient will still be prone to other throat infections. Many patients have reported that they feel better after having their tonsils removed if they had previously suffered from regular episodes of the infection.
In most cases tonsillitis will improve without leaving any further problems for the patient, saying this tonsillitis can sometimes progress to cause more complications. There is a slight chance of the infection spreading to other nearby tissues causing infections in the ears, sinuses or chest. In some patients a collection of pus (abscess) can develop next to a tonsil due to a bacterial infection. This is medically known as Quinsy and it commonly develops on one side. The affected tonsil is pushed towards the midline causing pain and discomfort in the mouth, and sometimes a fever. Quinsy is treated by antibiotics and a small operation to drain the pus.
If you suffering from any of the symptoms explored above then an appointment with an ent specialist is recommended. They will be able to assess the situation and explain what options are available to you.