On the surface of things, tonsillitis seems to be the most innocuous of conditions. After all, millions of people get this every year and millions of people put off treatment until the last possible moment. Yet, as is the case with many medical conditions, tonsillitis can lead to conditions that cannot be ignored. One of these conditions is called a peritonsillar abscess and it definitely warrants a visit to the doctor.
As the name of this condition implies, a peritonsillar abscess is an abscess that forms near the tonsils, often as a result of tonsillitis. There may be other causes of this condition as well such as, dental infections, infectious mononucleosis, smoking, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and stones or calcium deposits in the tonsils (tonsilloliths). Whatever the cause of this kind of abscess is, it is helpful to know its symptoms, what complications can arise from this condition, how it is treated and what the outcome of it is.
Some of the symptoms that signal peritonsillar abscesses are a severe sore throat that confines itself to one side, painful swallowing, fever and chills, muscle spasms of the jaw and difficulty swallowing. Obviously, minus the abscess itself, these symptoms can be present in a whole host of other diseases so it is necessary for a physician to correctly diagnose the presence of peritonsillar abscess. Usually a doctor can look directly into the patient’s mouth to diagnose the abscess (if it is large enough to be visible).
There is no home treatment for peritonsillar abscess even if sites on the Internet claim that there is. Treatment by a professional is critical as complications can occur such as:
- airway obstruction
- Cellulitis of the jaw, neck, or chest
- Endocarditis (rare)
- Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
- Inflammation around the heart (pericarditis)
- Sepsis (infection in the blood)
Typically, peritonsillar abscesses are treated with antibiotics if it is caught early. If an abscess has developed, it will be drained with a needle or by surgery. Occasionally, the tonsils will be removed at the same time the abscess is drained. In the vast majority of cases, peritonsillar abscesses go away after being properly treated by a physician. However, occasionally, they may reappear. It is believed that quickly having one’s tonsils removed at the first sign they are inflamed may help reduce the occurrence of peritonsillar abscesses.
To conclude, it is always wisest to opt on the side of caution when you have symptoms that seem persistent and that seem to worsen. It is never a good idea to diagnose oneself.