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Tonsillitis: How Do Tonsils Become Inflamed?

Tonsillitis: How Do Tonsils Become Inflamed?
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swollen tonsils

Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become swollen, inflamed and irritated. The tonsils become swollen and irritated due to viral or bacterial infections. Tonsillitis can occur at any age, but most frequently occurs during childhood.

What Causes Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis most often occurs due to a viral or bacterial infection. This can include:

  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Adenoviruses
  • Strep throat
  • Coronavirus
  • Rhinovirus
  • Herpes infections
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Measles virus
  • Hay fever
  • Sinusitis

Types of Tonsillitis

There is only one recognized type of tonsillitis, but it is often differentiated by whether it was caused by a viral infection or bacterial infection

tonsillitis causes

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

  • Redness/Irritation of the tonsils
  • White or yellow coating on the tonsils
  • Painful blisters in the throat
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ear pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bad breath
  • Abdominal pain

Diagnosing Tonsillitis

swollen tonsils

A physical exam can reveal swollen tonsils.

A physical examination by a primary care physician or ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist can usually diagnose tonsillitis. The doctor will do a thorough physical exam, and can tell if the tonsils are inflamed by visually viewing them at the back of the mouth. Fever and swollen lymph nodes can also be indicators of tonsillitis during a physical exam. To confirm the diagnosis, the physician may take an oral swab or blood sample to test for an infection that would cause tonsillitis.

Treating Tonsillitis

Minor cases of tonsillitis usually resolve on their own in about one week. Your doctor will recommend that you get lots of best rest and drink fluid consistently. In severe cases of tonsillitis, or in those who get tonsillitis frequently, a tonsillectomy is usually recommended. A tonsillectomy is a simple procedure in which the tonsils are removed under general anesthesia.

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