General Medicine, Oral medicine and radiology, Oral Pathology

What is Tonsillitis – Clinical Features and Treatment

Tonsillitis simply means – Inflammation of the Tonsils. Before we understand what tonsillitis is we need to know what Tonsils are and their functions. Tonsils are Simple Lumps or Balls of Lymphatic Tissue in the Back of the Oral Cavity on either side of the back of the tongue. Tonsils like other Lymph Nodes help in Immunity and fight against infection. But if these Tonsils get infected by Bacteria or Virus it leads to inflammation of the Tonsils.


It is the Inflammation of the Lymphatic Tissue present on either side of the Uvula located on back end of the oral cavity. In simple terms it is Tonsils + Itis (Inflammation) – Inflammation of the Tonsils, which is caused due to Bacterial or Viral infection.

Classifications or Types of Tonsillitis:

Tonsillitis is often classified into 3 types based on the duration or the time for which the inflammation lasts. The different types of tonsillitis often is caused by different types of Bacteria or Virus.

  1. Acute: Acute tonsillitis tends to be bacterial or Viral in nature
  2. Subacute: Subacute tonsillitis is caused by the Bacterium Actinomyces
  3. Chronic: Chronic tonsillitis generally lasts for a long time and is caused by bacteria

Difference between bacterial and viral tonsillitisEtiology or Causes of Tonsillitis:

Tonsillitis is mainly Caused by Virus or Bacteria and rarely caused by Fungal infection.

  1. Viral infection: mostly caused by Epstein-Barr (associated with mononucleosis) and adenovirus
  2. Bacterial infection: Is caused by the Group A streptococcal bacteria, and this condition is commonly termed “strep throat”

Mode of Transmission of Tonsillitis:

Tonsillitis which is caused by Bacteria and Virus is often transmitted through air via water Droplets. If the infected person sneezes or Coughs the water droplets (Saliva) containing Bacteria or Virus are carried into the air and when these come  in contact with another person cause Tonsillitis. Hence Tonsillitis is affected more in children because of the close contact they have with other children at Schools.

 How to Diagnose Tonsillitis:

Tonsillitis usually presents as a Red, inflamed Swelling on the back of the throat. The Doctor usually asks you to open your mouth wide and put your tongue out as much as possible and with the help of a torch sees for the signs and symptoms of Tonsillitis. White spots and sores are a common occurrence on the swellings in the Tonsils area.

  1. In Case of Viral Tonsillitis: Inflammation of Tonsils, Cold along with runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, and coughing are seen more commonly.
  2. In case of Bacterial Tonsillitis: Inflamed Tonsils with Fever and Swollen Tonsils but without Cold and Cough.

Tonsillitis clinical features signs and symptoms and treatmentSigns and Symptoms of Tonsillitis:

  1.  Inflamed Red Tonsils
  2. Tonsils are covered with White Spots
  3. Tonsils are covered with Pus in patches or Completely
  4. Tonsillitis along with associated symptoms of Fever, Cold, along with  runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, and coughing are commonly seen in Viral Tonsillitis
  5. Tonsillitis along with Severe Fever and Swollen Lymph nodes without any Cold or Cough is commonly seen in Bacterial Tonsillitis and the Doctor will suggest you a Strep Test.

Treatment of Tonsillitis:

In Case of Viral Tonsillitis the Tonsils infection will be relieved on its own without any medication. The only medication required is for relieving you of the symptoms of pain and Discomfort which will be listed out later in this post.

In case of Bacterial Tonsillitis diagnosis and Antibiotic Medication is necessary. In case of Streptococcal Tonsillitis or Pharyngitis Pencillins, Cephalosporins (Cefalexin, Cefadroxil) are prescribed but in case of Patients allergic to Pencillins and Cephalosporins are given Erythromycin.

In case of Chronic Occurrence of Tonsillitis the Doctor might suggest you to go for “Tonsillectomy” which is the complete removal of Tonsils from your Oral cavity.

Home Remedies or Tips to get relief from Tonsillitis:

  1. Gargle with Warm water mixed with Salt in as many times as possible because of the isotonic nature of Salt the Bacterial infection is decreased and also helps in decreasing the Pain and discomfort.
  2. Drinking Hot Beverages soothes the throat and decreases the symptoms
  3. Chew or Suck on Lozenges available in the market really help decreasing the discomfort
  4. Eating Ginger also helps give you that warm feeling in your throat and decreases the discomfort

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