Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils mainly due to bacterial infection. Tonsils are two oval-shaped tissues at the back of your oral cavity, one tonsil on each side. These are the palatine tonsils that are involved, they are masses of lymphoid tissue located at the back of the throat. These are covered by surface epithelium and have tube-like invaginations called crypts.
It is an acute inflammation of the tonsils due to bacterial infections or viral infections. Acute tonsillitis needs to be treated promptly to minimize the chance of conversion of acute tonsillitis to chronic tonsillitis, peritonsillar abscess, or rheumatic fever.
There are the following types of tonsillitis according to the component involved,
Superficial Tonsillitis or Acute Catarrhal Tonsillitis
This type of tonsillitis is a part of generalized pharyngitis, the tonsils, pharynx, and oral cavity all are involved.
Crypts of the tonsils are filled with pus which is present at the opening of crypts are yellow beads or spots.
The tonsil is red and enlarged because the tonsil substance is affected. No pus is seen in this type.
Tonsil is covered with a membrane that can be separated. This membrane is formed when pus coalesces at the surface of the tonsil. It is ahead of follicular tonsillitis.
Symptoms of tonsillitis vary with the severity of the disease. Some common symptoms are
Tonsillitis is usually rare in infants and elderly above 50 years.
The common causes of tonsillitis are bacterial infections and bacterial infections secondary to viral infection. Group A streptococcus (Hemolytic streptococcus) is the most common cause. Other bacteria include staphylococcus, pneumococcus, and H. influenza.
Tonsillitis is caused by a bacterium or virus which causes the inflammation of the tonsils while strep throat happens when a bacterial infection causes generalized swelling in the throat area. Both infections have some similar symptoms such as sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, and painful swallowing, and can be transmitted from person to person but tonsillitis can cause sleep apnea.
If tonsillitis is caused by group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus and it is not treated or if antibiotic treatment is incomplete, your child has an increased risk of rare disorders such as:
· Rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disease that affects the heart, joints, nervous system, and skin
· Scarlet fever, an infection characterized by a prominent rash
· Inflammation of the kidneys due to immune-complex formation (post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis)
· Post-streptococcal reactive arthritis, inflammation of the joints
Tonsillitis can spread through respiratory droplets during coughing and sneezing. As it is a bacterial infection so can spread through contaminated objects.
You can prevent its spread by adopting the following measures
If tonsillitis is caused by bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Mostly penicillin is given, if your child is allergic to penicillin doctor will prescribe some other alternative. Give your child a full course of antibiotics even if symptoms relieve, failure of taking antibiotics can worsen the infection and increase bacterial resistance.
Surgery is indicated if there are recurrent attacks of tonsillitis but it is never done during an acute attack
A tonsillectomy is done if tonsillitis causes difficulty in breathing, swallowing, and sleeping (sleep apnea). Or if there is abscess formation or febrile seizures.