Health and MedicineDiseasesTonsillitis: symptoms, causes and treatment

Tonsillitis: symptoms, causes and treatment

Tonsillitis is a common throat disorder, which causes inflammation of the tonsils. Discover its symptoms, how to identify it, its causes and the medical treatments used to cure it.

There are many different disorders that can affect the throat, from a simple and annoying pain after having caught cold, to pharyngitis or tonsillitis. In the case of tonsillitis, as its name suggests, it is characterized by inflammation of the tonsils , which can be one or both.

The tonsils (medically known as palatine tonsils) are large, fleshy, oval-shaped masses of tissue found on the lateral wall of the oropharynx, on each side of the throat). They are clusters of tissue that contain cells that produce useful and necessary antibodies in the fight against infection.

Regarding the tonsillitis itself, we are faced with an inflammation of one or more lymphatic tonsils, although from a medical point of view this term is used to refer only to the inflammation of the palatine tonsils.

What is tonsillitis?

It is an infectious disease acquired by contagion. There are basically two routes of contagion: by direct contact (for example, by exchanging saliva, by intimate contact or with contaminated objects), or through the air (by sneezing or coughing).

It basically consists of the inflammation of the tonsils, which, as we will see below, can be caused both by a viral or viral infection, as well as by an infection of bacterial origin.

In the case of bacterial tonsillitis, it is most commonly caused by common bacterial infections, such as streptococcal pharyngitis (throat infection caused by group a streptococcus, causing symptoms such as irritation and pain).

This tonsillitis causes inflammation of one or both palatine tonsils, which we find located on both sides of the throat, on the lateral wall of the oropharynx, and which consist of masses of fleshy, oval-shaped tissue.

Viral and bacterial tonsillitis, what are their differences?

As the name suggests, the main difference between viral tonsillitis and bacterial tonsillitis is the cause of the infection. And it is that, while in viral tonsillitis the cause must be found in the infection caused by a virus, in the case of bacterial tonsillitis it is due -obviously- to bacteria.

Viral tonsillitis

Viral tonsillitis is one of the most common and common. In fact, most tonsillitis (or inflammation of the tonsils) is caused by viruses, with an estimated 2 out of 3 cases being caused by them.

Among the viruses that most commonly cause tonsillitis, we can mention:

  • Adenovirus: Family of viruses that can cause not only respiratory tract infections, but also gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, and hemorrhagic cystitis.
  • Influenza virus:  it is the main cause of flu or flu, caused by the influenza virus A or B.
  • Enter viruses: A genus of common viruses that can be commonly found in the respiratory secretions and stools of infected people.
  • Epstein-Barr virus:  virus that causes acute infectious mononucleosis, belonging to the herpes virus family.
  • Para influenza virus:  also known as Para influenza virus, it is related to viruses that cause mumps.
  • Herpes simplex virus:  cause of viral infectious inflammatory diseases. Depending on the type or gender, it can affect different parts of the body, not only the respiratory tract, but also the mucous membranes and the skin.

It is a more common type of infection in young children.

Bacterial tonsillitis

The fundamental cause when we are faced with a bacterial tonsillitis is caused by  Streptococcus pyogenicWe must bear in mind that it is a type of tonsillitis actually rare in young children (under 3 years), being more common in older children, young people and adults.

The medical treatment of choice in these cases is antibiotics, usually oral penicillin /amoxicillin every 12 hours for 8 to 10 days.

Symptoms of tonsillitis

As a general rule, the symptoms of tonsillitis are as follows:

  • A sore throat that can be severe and lasts more than 48 hours (2 days)
  • Fever, chills feeling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Throat tenderness
  • Jaw tenderness

However, depending on whether the tonsillitis is caused by viruses or bacteria, its symptoms tend to vary. For example, in the case of viral tonsillitis, severe sore throats, not very high fever, mucus and conjunctivitis are common. As we will know below.

Symptoms of tonsillitis caused by viruses:

  • Gradual onset.
  • Progressive worsening.
  • Moderate fever, below 39ºC.
  • Redness of the tonsils.
  • Moderate sore throat
  • Small nodes in the neck.
  • Mild to moderate increase in size of one or both tonsils.

Symptoms of tonsillitis caused by bacteria:

  • Abrupt start.
  • High fever, higher than 39ºC.
  • Enlargement of the glands in the neck (usually tender).
  • Headache/abdominal pain.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Tonsils are much reddened, with an increase in size and the presence on their surface of small hemorrhages, whitish plaques or pockets of pus.

Causes of tonsillitis

The most common cause of tonsillitis is colonization of the tonsil by viruses that generally affect the respiratory tract. We can also find other viruses, such as the one that causes mononucleosis, or HIV or herpes.

It can also be produced by the colonization of the amygdala by bacteria that usually tend to come from the respiratory tract, the oropharynx or the skin. The most common is strep throat, caused by the Streptococcus bacteria.

Treatment of tonsillitis

Medical treatment will fundamentally depend on whether we are dealing with tonsillitis caused by viruses or bacteria. However, as a general rule, it is advisable to eat warm crushed foods (to avoid causing more damage to the throat), as well as cold drinks or at room temperature.

Treatment of tonsillitis caused by bacteria

This treatment requires the use of a specific antibiotic against the germ that caused the infection. In addition, antipyretic-analgesics are used to mitigate pain and reduce fever.

Treatment of tonsillitis caused by viruses

Treatment is mainly symptomatic, using antipyretics-analgesics that allow control of both fever and pain.

Rinses with antiseptic mouthwashes several times a day can help prevent colonization of the tonsils by bacteria, or the pharynx.


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