Tonsillitis - Tonsil Infections
The tonsils are two small sacs of lymphoid tissue near the root of the tongue. Normal tonsils are usually about the same size and have the same pink color as the surrounding area.
Tonsils form Waldeyer's tonsillar ring -- a ring of lymphatic tissue around the entrance of the pharynx. The tonsils are named according to their location. The palatine tonsils are located on the lateral walls of the oropharynx. The lingual tonsils are located at the base of the tongue. The adenoids (pharyngeal tonsils) are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate), and are not easily visible through the mouth. The tubal tonsils are located in the roof of the nasopharynx.
The basic function of tonsils and adenoids is to help the body to build up immunity to infectious organisms entering into the body through the mouth or nose. They protect the throat and lungs from infection.
Tonsils and adenoids are most active in childhood when many infections are encountered for the first time, and reach the full size when the child is six or seven. The tonsils work as a filter which fights and protects the entire human system against the foreign organisms. Tonsils produce antibodies, which fight against the infection, stopping its further spread to other parts of the body.
The most common problems occurring with the tonsils are recurrent or chronic infections and significant enlargement (adenotonsillar hyperplasia).
Tonsillitis is an inflammatory condition of the tonsils due to bacteria, virus, allergies, or respiratory problems. The term tonsillitis generally refers to inflammation of the palatine tonsils. When inflamed, tonsils become swollen and red with a grayish or yellowish coating. Tonsillitis usually begins with a sudden sore throat and painful swallowing. Tonsillitis causes tonsils and throat tissues to swell obstructing air from passing in and out of the respiratory system. The tonsils infection is common in children and teenagers but rare in adults.
Viruses are the most common pathogens responsible for tonsillitis in children under the age of 6 years. A number of respiratory viruses can cause tonsillitis, including the Reovirus, Adenovirus, Enterovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Influenza virus, Echoviruses, Coxsackie’s A virus .
EBV infections may cause infectious mononucleosis.
Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A beta-haemolytic streptococci) is the most frequent cause of bacterial tonsillitis. Bacteria cause tonsillitis more frequently in older children and adults than in young children. Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenzae are also frequent causes of tonsil infection. Klebsiella pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumonia, Escherichia coli and Enterobacter may also cause tonsillitis, however are more prevalent in adults .
In rare instances, tonsillitis can also be caused by fungi or parasites.
Is tonsillitis contagious?
Viral and bacterial tonsillitis are contagious illnesses and are typically spread through airborne droplets.
If tonsillitis is due to a chronic condition (e.g. allergy) it is unlikely to be contagious.
The main symptom of tonsillitis is severe pain in the anterior neck area. Tonsillitis typically causes the tonsils to become visibly red and swollen. You may also notice patches of white discharge on infected tonsils. Tonsillitis symptoms include:
When should the tonsils be removed?
Today tonsils are no longer routinely removed after one or two episodes of acute infection. If one or more of the following conditions are present, surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be recommended:
Tonsillectomy is considered in those patients who are suffering, or may suffer serious complications of infection. These include peritonsillar abscess, history of streptococcal complications (rheumatic heart disease, glomerulonephritis), or neck abscess.
There are many effective natural alternatives to OTC medicines and antibiotics routinely prescribed for tonsillitis. Natural herbal and homeopathic remedies can help to safely reduce the symptoms of these conditions, clear the infection, cut recovery time and also strengthen the immune system to prevent recurring infection.
Created: August 18, 2006