Swollen tonsils are often caused due to a condition called Tonsillitis; in fact both are used as synonyms to each other. Tonsillitis is a condition wherein the tonsils become inflamed. Tonsils are oval shaped pads which are located at the back of the throat. Every individual usually has two tonsils, one on each side. Common viruses are attributed to cause most cases of tonsillitis; however, in some cases the condition may also arise due to bacterial infection. There are different symptoms that are experienced in case of tonsillitis however the most common and primary symptom of the disorder is swollen tonsils. This causes difficulty gulping down foods.
Swollen tonsils with white spots
There are conditions wherein white patches are noticed on the tonsils but no pain is experienced by the individuals. These white patches can probably be debris from crypts, mononucleosis, micro abscesses and remains of candidiasis after an antibiotic based treatment. There are chances that these white patches may be due to tonsilliths which are food particles that gets lodged in tonsil. These white patches can be prevented by gargling regularly after having food.
Tonsillitis is often caused due to infection of common viruses and bacteria. The most common type of bacteria that causes swollen tonsils is streptococcus pyogenes which belongs to Streptococcus A Group. This is the same bacterium that also causes strep throat. There are other viruses and bacteria that may also contribute to cause the condition. Some common bacteria and viruses include adenoviruses, Epstein -Barr virus, parainfluenza virus, herpes simplex virus, etc.
Tonsils are said to be the primary defense arrangement of immune system which protects the body against bacteria and viruses from entering body through mouth. This particular function of tonsils may make them prone to inflammation as well as infections. After puberty this defensive functioning of tonsils in the entire immune system starts declining. This means that tonsils do not play crucial role in immune systems which makes tonsils less prone to inflammation. This is perhaps the reason why this condition is rarely recorded in adults.
Symptoms of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis is commonly found in children, especially those between preschool age and middle teenage year. Some signs and symptoms of the condition are:
- Swollen tonsils
- Tonsils appearing reddish
- White patches appearing on tonsils (sometimes yellowish)
- Sore throat
- Experiencing difficulty and pain while swallowing food
- Tender glands or lymph nodes in neck
- Muffled and throaty voice
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Stomach pain mostly found in younger children
- Stiff neck or difficult movement
- Head ache
In extremely younger children, who cannot even speak and explain the symptoms, some of the obvious indications are –
- Drooling due to pain experienced while swelling food
- Refusing to eat
Risk factor and complications of swollen tonsils
People who have not reached their puberty level are prone to tonsillitis as according to surveys it is determined that more children are affected from the condition than adults. Children are also frequently exposed to germs which makes then vulnerable.
There are several complications that may arise due to swollen tonsils such as difficulty swallowing or even breathing. Disrupted breathing while sleeping which may result in obstructive sleep apnea. Infection may also metastasize to surrounding tissues causing ‘tonsillar cellulitis’. Sometimes the disorder may also aggravate to cause build-up of pus behind tonsils. This condition is technically referred to as ‘tonsillar abscess’. Sometimes children may be at risk of rare disorders such as rheumatic fever or post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
Usually physical examination is done to analyze swollen tonsils. The doctor may look at the tonsils and throat of the affected person. He may also examine ears and nose for any infection. Some cases of strep throat also include rashes called scarlatina which is also checked by the doctor. The doctor may also look for swollen glands by gently pressing the throat of the patients. Tonsils may also become inflamed due to mononucleosis which can be characterized by spleen enlargement.
The doctor may perform throat swab tests by rubbing a sterile swab on inflamed tonsils or surrounding region to get specimen of secretion. This specimen will be examined and analyzed in laboratory for presence of bacteria and viruses. In some cases CBC or complete blood cell count is suggested. For this test patient’s blood sample is obtained and sent to laboratory for testing. This will help in determining the type of bacteria causing infection which will make treatment easier to be determined.
Treatment for swollen tonsils
The treatment for swollen tonsils will depend greatly on the cause of the condition. After obtaining the results from diagnosis the doctor will decide and recommend appropriate treatment. Antibiotic treatment is the first line of treatment for the condition. This will help in alleviating the symptoms in two to three days from the onset of treatment. If the first course is not effective then second course or antibiotics is suggested.
In case of viral infection the body alone will fight the infection and antibiotics will not work. In such a case you need to ensure to get enough rest. Try drinking warm or very cold water to alleviate throat pain. Try eating smooth and healthy food such as flavored gelatins and applesauce, etc.
Tonsillectomy may be needed in severe cases. This is a surgical procedure wherein the tonsils are removed. This procedure should be avoided unless it is extremely important. Surgical removal of tonsillitis should only be considered if the patient is suffering from airway blockage, difficulty while eating, tonsillitis is recurrent, etc.