Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. The tonsils are found at the back of the throat, one on either side and are formed from lymphoid tissue, part of the immune system, whose role is to fight against infection.

Any bacteria or virus, which enters the mouth and nasal passages, will trigger off a reaction from the tonsils and often another part of the system called the adenoids, tissue situated at the back of the nose. These infections can lead to the tonsils becoming inflamed and occasionally they can become infected as well.

The symptoms of tonsillitis include a sore throat, usually rapidly becoming severe, with difficulty and pain on swallowing, sometimes the tonsils are so badly swollen that there feels like a lump in the throat as you swallow.

Sometimes the pain is referred to the ears. There is a rise in temperature, often a headache and always a feeling of being unwell.

The first line of treatment is to use an antibiotic if a bacterial infection is suspected. It is helpful to take a mild painkiller to help relieve some of the discomfort. Using an antiseptic gargle can also significantly relieve symptoms. If acute episodes of tonsillitis become recurrent despite antibiotic treatment, it is then useful to consider Tonsillectomy where the tonsils are removed under general anesthetic.

Sometimes it is necessary to remove both the tonsils and adenoids at the same time. In the past tonsils were removed early often after only a few episodes of tonsillitis. This is not the general rule nowadays as the tonsils have a significant role to play in preventing infections, and will generally only be removed if they are a constant source of infection themselves.

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