The tonsils are a pair of soft tissue masses located at the rear of the throat. Each tonsil is composed of tissue similar to lymph nodes, covered by pink mucosa. Running through the mucosa of each tonsil are pits, called crypts. The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system, which helps to fight infections. However, removal of the tonsils does not seem to increase susceptibility to infection. Tonsils vary widely in size and swell in response to infection.
What is tonsillitis?
Tonsils are the two lymph nodes located on each side of the back of your throat. They function as a defense mechanism to any infection or bacteria. They help prevent your body from infection. When the tonsils become infected, the condition is called tonsillitis. Tonsillitis can occur at any age and is a common childhood infection. It is most often diagnosed in children from preschool age through their midteens. Symptoms include a sore throat, swollen tonsils, and fever in many cases. This condition is contagious and can be caused by a variety of common viruses and bacteria, such as Streptococcal bacteria, which causes strep throat. Tonsillitis caused by strep throat can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Tonsillitis is easily diagnosed.
What are the signs and symptoms of tonsillitis?
The most prominent symptom of tonsillitis is a sore throat. Other signs and symptoms of tonsillitis and adenoid infection include:
- Bad breath
- Congestion and runny nose
- Swollen lymph nodes in front of the neck
- Red, swollen tonsils with patches of pus
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Abdominal pain
- Coughing up blood
Causes of tonsillitis
Tonsils are your first line of defense against illness. They produce white blood cells to help your body fight infection. The tonsils fight bacteria and viruses that enter your body through your mouth. However, tonsils are also vulnerable to infection from these invaders. Tonsillitis can be caused by a virus, such as the common cold, or by a bacterial infection. An estimated 15 to 30 percent of tonsillitis cases are due to bacteria and most often it's strep bacteria. Viruses are the most common cause of tonsillitis. The Epstein-Barr virus can cause tonsillitis, which can also cause mononucleosis.
What is tonsil cancer?
Tonsil cancer begins with cancerous cells or a tumor in the tonsils. It can still affect people who have had their tonsils removed, as some tissue is often left behind after surgery. People who drink alcohol or smoke have a greater risk of developing tonsil cancer. The tonsils are found towards the back of the throat, one on either side. Each tonsil is made up of a collection of lymphoid tissue. This is tissue containing lymphocytes, which are cells that fight off disease. Tonsils catch and destroy bacteria and viruses.
- Antibiotics: Tonsillitis due to bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics.
- Abscess drainage: A peritonsillar abscess generally must be punctured with a needle, to allow the infection to drain and heal.
- Tonsillectomy: In cases of tonsils that are too large or repeatedly infected, surgery to remove them may be necessary.
Make sure to consult your doctor before using any alternative remedies. Many of these home remedies are not recommended for use in children or adolescents, most have not been scientifically evaluated.