Tonsillitis and adenoid infection definition and facts
Tonsils and adenoids are composed of tissues similar to the lymph nodes or glands.Acute tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils
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Tonsillitis and adenoid infection definition and facts

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Tonsillitis and adenoid infection definition and facts

Tonsillitis and adenoid infection definition and facts

  • Tonsils and adenoids are composed of tissues similar to the lymph nodes or glands.
  • Acute tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils caused by one of several types of bacteria or viruses.
  • Chronic tonsillitis is a persistent infection of the tonsils and can cause tonsil stone formation.
  • Signs and symptoms of tonsil or adenoid infection include the following:
  • Peritonsillar abscess (quinsy) is a collection of pus behind the tonsils.
  • Obstruction to breathing by enlarged tonsils and adenoids may cause snoring and disturbed sleep patterns.
  • Doctors treat bacterial infections of the tonsils and adenoids with antibiotics.
  • Medical professionals diagnose tonsillitis and adenoid infections with a history and physical exam. A health care professionals may order a throat culture and rapid strep test in cases of suspected bacterial tonsillitis.
  • Doctors may recommend tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) for (1) repeated or persistent infections; (2) when serious complications of infection occur; and (3) when enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids causes breathing, swallowing, or dental problems.

What are the tonsils and adenoids? What do they do?

The tonsils and adenoids are composed of tissues similar to the lymph nodes or glands found in the neck or other parts of the body. Together, they are part of a ring of glandular tissue (Waldeyer’s ring) encircling the back of the throat.

  • The tonsils are the two oval-shaped masses of tissue on either side of the back of the throat. Normal tonsils are usually about the same size and have the same pink color as the surrounding area. On their surfaces are little depressions, called crypts, which may appear deep and contain pus-filled pockets or tonsil stones.
  • The adenoids are located high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate (the roof of the mouth) and unlike the tonsils, are not easily visible through the mouth. A tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy (commonly referred to as a T & A) are surgical procedures performed to remove the tonsils and adenoids.

The tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system thought to assist the body in its defense against incoming bacteria and viruses by helping the body form antibodies. However, this function may only be important during the first year of life. There is no evidence to support a significant role of the tonsils and adenoids in immunity. Medical studies have shown that children who have their tonsils and adenoids removed suffer no loss in their future immunity to disease or ability to ward off infections.

What are the signs and symptoms of tonsillitis or adenoid infections?

The most prominent symptom of tonsillitis and adenoid infection is a sore throat (pharyngitis). Other signs and symptoms of tonsillitis and adenoid infection include the following:

When there is a sore throat and cold symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing, the cause is most likely a virus. Viral infection of the tonsils or adenoids usually resolves without treatment within two weeks.

Sore throat with a sudden mild fever, without symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection, may point to a bacterial infection called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (GABHS). If these symptoms are present, see a doctor for diagnosis because of the risk of strep throat. Although strep throat will usually go away even without treatment, an untreated strep bacterial infection can lead to complications including rheumatic fever, which can permanently damage the heart.

When there is a sore throat that does not affect the tonsils, medical professionals call this pharyngitis. When both the throat and the tonsils are affected, it’s called pharyngotonsillitis.

Is tonsillitis contagious?

Tonsillitis may or may not be contagious, depending on the cause. If the cause is viral, it is usually contagious, but this depends upon whether or not a person has been exposed to that particular virus before. Mononucleosis, a viral cause of sore throat, is contagious the first time a person comes in contact with the virus, usually in childhood or adolescence.

If the cause of the tonsillitis is bacterial, it is also contagious. For example, strep throat is highly contagious.

If the tonsillitis and enlarged adenoids are chronic or caused by a chronic condition, such as sinusitishay fever or chronic rhinitis, it likely is not contagious.IMAGESTonsillitis (Adnoiditis, Symptoms, Home Treatment, Pictures, Causes)See a picture of tonsillitis and other viral skin conditionsSee Images

What causes tonsillitis and adenoid infections?

The most common problems occurring with the tonsils and adenoids are

  • acute,
  • recurrent, or
  • chronic infections and significant enlargement (hypertrophy).

Acute tonsillitis

Acute tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils caused by one of several possible types of bacteria or viruses. Symptoms of acute tonsillitis can either come on suddenly, or be of a gradual onset of a sore throat usually accompanied by a fever.

Other signs and symptoms of acute tonsillitis include:

  • Difficulty swallowing saliva
  • Drooling
  • Ear pain with swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Tonsil surface may be bright red or have a grayish-white coating (exudate).
  • Lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen.
  • Fever

Strep throat is a specific type of infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. Strep tonsillitis can cause secondary damage to the heart valves (rheumatic fever) and kidneys (glomerulonephritis). It can also lead to a skin rash (for example, scarlet fever), sinusitispneumonia, and ear infections.

The Epstein-Barr virus causes acute mononucleosis and can lead to a very severe throat infection characterized by the rapid enlargement of the tonsils, adenoids, and lymph nodes of the neck. It also causes extreme malaise and tiredness. The sore throat and gland swelling can last for one week to a month and does not respond to the usually prescribed antibiotics.

Chronic tonsillitis

Chronic tonsillitis is a persistent infection of the tonsils. Repeated infections may cause the formation of small pockets (crypts) in the tonsils, which harbor bacteria. Frequently, small foul-smelling stones develop within these crypts. These stones (tonsilloliths) may contain high quantities of sulfa. When crushed, they give off the characteristic rotten egg smell, which causes bad breath. They may also give a patient the sense of something caught in the back of the throat.

Peritonsillar abscess

A peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus around the tonsils that pushes one of the tonsils toward the uvula (the prominent soft tissue dangling from the back of the upper throat). It is generally very painful and is associated with decreased ability to open the mouth. If left untreated, the infection can spread deep in the neck causing life-threatening complications and airway obstruction.

Enlargement of (hypertrophic) tonsils and adenoids

Obstruction to breathing by enlarged tonsils and adenoids may cause snoring and disturbed sleep patterns that may lead to sleep pauses or sleep apnea.

Other signs and symptoms include:

Some orthodontists believe chronic mouth breathing from large tonsils and adenoids causes improper alignment of the teeth (malocclusion).

Chronic enlargement and infection of the adenoids may lead to infection of the air passages around the nose (sinusitis) or nasal drainage/obstruction, and/or may affect the Eustachian tube of the ears, leading to chronic ear infections.

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