- Anatomy of a Sore Throat Slideshow
- Take the Strep Throat Quiz
- Improve Immunity Slideshow
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Snoring and Other Problems
- Find a local Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor in your town
- Tonsillitis and adenoid infection facts
- What are the tonsils and adenoids?
- What is the purpose of the tonsils and adenoids?
- What are the symptoms of tonsillitis or an adenoid infection?
- What does tonsillitis look like?
- Can someone catch tonsillitis from another person?
- What are common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids?
- How are tonsillitis and adenoid infection diagnosed?
- How are tonsillitis and adenoid infection treated?
- What home remedies help soothe tonsillitis?
- When should the tonsils and/or adenoids be removed?
Can someone catch tonsillitis from another person?
Tonsillitis may or may not be contagious, depending on the cause. If the cause is viral, it is usually contagious, but this depends upon whether or not a person has been exposed to that particular virus before. Mononucleosis, a viral cause of sore throat, is contagious the first time a person is exposed to the virus, usually in childhood or adolescence.
If the cause of the tonsillitis is bacterial, it is also contagious. For example, strep throat is highly contagious.
What are common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids?
The most common problems occurring with the tonsils and adenoids are acute, recurrent or chronic infections and significant enlargement (hypertrophy).
Acute tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils caused by one of several possible types of bacteria or viruses. Symptoms of acute tonsillitis can either come on suddenly, or be of a gradual onset of a sore throat usually accompanied by a fever.
Other signs and symptoms of acute tonsillitis include:
- Difficulty swallowing saliva
- Ear pain with swallowing
- Bad breath
- The surface of the tonsil may be bright red or have a grayish-white coating (exudate).
- The lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen.
Strep throat is a specific type of infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. Strep tonsillitis can cause secondary damage to the heart valves (rheumatic fever) and kidneys (glomerulonephritis). It can also lead to a skin rash (scarlet fever), sinusitis, pneumonia, and ear infections.
Acute mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, and can lead to a very severe throat infection characterized by the rapid enlargement of the tonsils, adenoids, and lymph nodes of the neck. It also causes extreme malaise and tiredness. The sore throat and gland swelling can last for one week to a month and does not respond to the usually prescribed antibiotics.
Chronic tonsillitis is a persistent infection of the tonsils. Repeated infections may cause the formation of small pockets (crypts) in the tonsils which harbor bacteria. Frequently, small, foul smelling stones are found within these crypts. These stones (tonsilloliths) may contain high quantities of sulfa. When crushed, they give off the characteristic rotten egg smell which causes bad breath. They may also give a patient the sense of something being caught in the back of the throat.
A peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus behind the tonsils that pushes one of the tonsils toward the uvula (the prominent soft tissue dangling from the back of the upper throat). It is generally very painful and is associated with decreased ability to open the mouth. If left untreated, the infection can spread deep in the neck causing life-threatening complications and airway obstruction.
Enlargement of (hypertrophic) tonsils and adenoids
- frequent awakening from sleep,
- restless sleep,
- mood changes,
- excessive sleepiness, and
- heart problems.
Some orthodontists believe chronic mouth breathing from large tonsils and adenoids causes improper alignment of the teeth (malocclusion).
Chronic enlargement and infection of the adenoids may lead to infection of the air passages around the nose (sinusitis) or nasal drainage/obstruction, and/or may affect the Eustachian tube of the ears, leading to chronic ear infections.