Tonsils and Tonsillitis Explained

December 12, 2019
We hear about tonsils all the time, but what are they really? In simple terms, tonsils are what doctors refer to as lymphoid tissue that sits in the back of the throat. We all have them and they can vary in size. They also can change in size, even more so when we are sick. Typically, lymphoid tissue provides a defense mechanism to assist in fighting infections. As we grow, however, sometimes this function becomes less prominent.

 

Are all sore throats tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis can usually have more pain than the common sore throat, or pharyngitis, but many times the symptoms can be indistinguishable. Most viral-related sore throats do not require antibiotics for resolution, but sometimes telling apart bacterial from a viral infection can be difficult. A simple throat swab to check for Strep A can be easily performed in the clinic and provides results within 30 minutes to diagnose the most common culprit in tonsillitis.
 
Those who get repeated tonsillitis associated with sore throat, fever and enlargement of the tonsils may be candidates for surgical removal if they meet certain criteria. Six episodes in one 12-month period is usually a clear indication to consider surgery as an option.

 

If tonsils are removed, do we get more infections?

In simple terms, for those patients who have clear reasons for removal, the outcome of tonsillectomy is very minimal. Some researchers have reported that patients may have more upper respiratory infections — common cold viral infections, or URIs — than their counterparts, but this may be difficult to discern.
 
Those with questions about their tonsils should seek advice from their doctor about treatment options and whether they are surgical candidates.
 
 
Assist. Prof. Dr. Dhave Setabutr is a U.S. board-certified specialist in otolaryngology and
pediatric otolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat) at Bumrungrad International Hospital
 
 

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