Tonsillitis (infected tonsils) | Best ENT Specialist in India
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Tonsillitis (infected tonsils)

Image showing viral tonsillitis and bacterial tonsillitis, a general cause for sore throat in children and adults

What are tonsils?

The tonsils are two soft masses of lymphoid tissue (lymph nodes) located on either side at the rear of the throat.  Tonsils help the body fight infections by forming antibodies that work to nullify disease-causing microbes such as viruses and bacteria. But the reassuring thing is that removal of tonsils (or even adenoids which are also lymphoid tissue like tonsils but located behind the nasal cavity) in children has no apparent adverse effect on their immunity to diseases and infections, medical research too validates this.

What is tonsillitis?

Even though tonsils are a part of body’s frontline defence mechanism, they too can get infected. Tonsillitis is nothing but an infection in tonsils. Tonsillitis is a common condition.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

Sore throat is the most common symptom of tonsillitis. Fever, pain in swallowing, bad breath, fever, painful and swollen lymph nodes in front of neck, and ear pain when making a swallowing motion are other major symptoms indicating tonsillitis.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

Sore throat is the most common symptom of tonsillitis. Fever, pain in swallowing, bad breath, fever, painful and swollen lymph nodes in front of neck, and ear pain when making a swallowing motion are other major symptoms indicating tonsillitis.

How does a doctor diagnose tonsillitis?

A doctor can diagnose tonsils quite easily through physical check up and by taking the case history. However, if an adult is getting tonsillitis again and again, the doctor may have to take a CT scan of nose and paranasal sinuses to investigate any infection in them as that could be causing recurrent tonsillitis.

How does an ENT physician doctor treat tonsillitis?

Most cases of acute tonsillitis respond well to medications and clear up in a few days.

However, your doctor may advise surgical removal of tonsils (called tonsillectomy) under the following conditions:

  • When a child is getting tonsillitis with the following frequency – at least 7 episodes in one single year, or at least 5 episodes per year for two years running, or 3 episodes per year for three years running.
  • In adults though, rather than count the number of tonsillitis episodes per year, focus is placed on the  severity, recurrence and pain the patient undergoes to advise surgical removal.
  • When tonsils and adenoids have become so enlarged so as to cause sleep disorders like snoring, breath holding or sleep apnoea, or sinusitis, or repeat bouts of ear infections, or dental abnormalities, or painful swallowing.
  • If a patient is suffering from severe infection, or is at risk of severe infection complications such as neck abscess, peritonsillar abscess, history of streptococcal complications such as rheumatic heart disease and glomerulonephritis, then ENT physician recommend tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.
  • When the doctor suspects presence of tumour or malignancy in tonsils

There could also be other factors in consideration such as disruption of studies, antibiotic tolerance, co-existing medical conditions, and family preferences.

Is conventional surgery the only way to remove tonsils?

A competent ENT surgeon can remove tonsils using conventional cold instruments. But that’s not the only option. Nowadays there are many more advanced medical technologies that can be used for tonsil removal with minimal blood loss. Some of these technologies include Coblation, Laser, and Radiofrequency.

Can I use any home cures for relief from tonsillitis?

First ensure that you are indeed suffering from tonsillitis only by visiting an ENT physician. Then you can add these home cures to your treatment regimen:

  • Gargling with saline – Good old saline or salty water is excellent for clearing mucous from your throat. Take some in a glass and gargle with it 2-3 times a day.
  • Lozenges and throat sprays – These help by moisturizing and coating the throat. Some of these even pack a topical anaesthetic for additional pain relief. One line of caution:  Lozenges can be a choking hazard for young kids, so do consult a doctor before you hand one to your child.
  • Warm beverages – Soup or tea with honey or ginger-tulsi tea can bring soothing relief to your throat. Grandma’s remedied do help in tonsillitis!
  • Cold foods – Amazing, isn’t it, that ice cream can help ease tonsillitis pain!

Let’s say we decide to get the tonsils removed. What are the chances that tonsillitis will strike again?

Once removed, tonsils (or tonsillitis) cannot come back. But in case, some portions of tonsils are left behind in the throat post-surgery, there is a chance of infection and enlargement in them.

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