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What is Tonsillitis?

The tonsils are two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat. Inflammation of the tonsils is known as tonsillitis.

Causes of Tonsillitis

Viruses are the most common causes of tonsillitis. The viruses that cause tonsillitis are the rhinovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis A and HIV. Among bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes is responsible for most cases of tonsillitis.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

Common signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • White or yellow patches on the tonsils
  • Sore throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever
  • Enlarged, tender glands in the neck
  • A scratchy, muffled, or throaty voice
  • Bad breath
  • Stomachache
  • Neck pain
  • Headache

Diagnosis of Tonsillitis

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and conduct a physical examination of your throat. This examination includes:

  • Using a lighted instrument to check your throat, ears, and nose, which can be sites of infection
  • Checking for a rash known as scarlatina, which is associated with some cases of strep throat
  • Gently feeling your neck to check for swollen glands
  • Checking for enlargement of the spleen

Diagnostic tests include:

  • Throat swab: This test uses a cotton-tipped swab to detect the presence of streptococcus bacteria.
  • Complete blood cell count (CBC): The doctor draws a small amount of your blood and tests it to determine whether the tonsillitis is viral or bacterial. 

Treatment for Tonsillitis

Treatments for tonsillitis include:

  • Gargling with warm saltwater
  • Drinking plenty of warm water to keep your throat moist and prevent dehydration.
  • Antibiotics: Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for bacteria-infected tonsils.
  • Surgery: A surgical procedure may be performed to remove both tonsils.
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  • American College of Physicians
  • Andrews Research & Education Foundation
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • JJM Medical College