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Tonsillitis

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis (ton-sil-lie-tiss) is an inflammation of the tonsils caused by an infection. In tonsillitis, the tonsils are enlarged, red, and often coated (either partly or entirely) by a substance that is yellow, gray, or white. Tonsillitis usually occurs as part of a pharyngitis (throat infection). Tonsillitis usually begins with sudden sore throat and painful swallowing.

Sometimes, tonsillitis reoccurs, and may cause difficulty breathing. If this occurs, your doctor may recommend taking them out. This procedure of removing tonsils from the throat is called a tonsillectomy.

What are Tonsils?

The tonsils are fleshy clusters of tissue that lie in bands on both sides of the back of the throat, above and behind the tongue. The tonsils' major function is to catch incoming germs before the germs cause infections in the throat, mouth, or sinuses. Tonsils contain infection-fighting cells and antibodies that stop the spread of the germs further into the body.

If the tonsils are taken out, the individual will not suffer from more infections than they did when they had their tonsils. There are other tissues in the body that will produce antibodies to fight infection.

What are the symptoms of Tonsillitis?

Each person with tonsillitis may not experience all of the symptoms. Some of the major symptoms of tonsillitis are:

  • redder-than-normal tonsils
  • chills
  • a yellow or white coating on the tonsils
  • a funny-sounding voice
  • swollen glands in the neck

How is Tonsillitis diagnosed?

Tonsillitis can be diagnosed by performing a rapid strep test, also called a throat culture. To perform the throat culture, the doctor will use a long cotton swab to swipe off some of the stuff on the surface of the back of your throat. The doctor will then test the "stuff" on the cotton swab. This test will determine whether you have tonsillitis and whether it is caused by a bacteria or a virus.

Is Tonsillitis Contagious?

Yes. Tonsillitis usually spreads from person to person by contact with the throat or nasal fluids of someone who is already infected.

How Is Tonsillitis Treated?

Treatment for tonsillitis depends on whether it was caused by a virus or bacteria. If the tonsillitis was caused by strep bacteria (streptococci), the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. If the tonsillitis was caused by a virus, your body will fight off the infection on its own. However, medication can be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms.

How long does Tonsillitis Last?

If tonsillitis is caused by bacteria, with antibiotic treatment, the illness is usually cured within 1 week. However, it may take several weeks for the tonsils and swollen glands to return to normal size.

When tonsillitis is caused by viruses, the length of illness depends on which virus is involved. Usually, people are almost completely recovered within 1 week.

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