Your tonsils are oval-shaped pieces of tissue at the back of your throat. They form part of your immune system, but for some people they are a source of recurrent infections. If you (or your child) are suffering from recurrent bouts of tonsillitis, an ENT specialist can help.
What causes tonsillitis, and how is it treated?
Tonsillitis is often caused by a viral infection. In some cases, it is caused by a bacterial infection (usually Streptococcus pyogenes).
Streptococcal tonsillitis is managed with antibiotics. Recurrent bouts of tonsillitis may require surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy).
What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis typically causes a sore throat, fever and tender swelling of lymph nodes (“glands”) in your neck. You may also experience bad breath and ear pain. Children with tonsillitis sometimes complain of tummy ache.
Tonsillitis can occur in children or adults, but does not often occur in infants under the age of 2.
Tonsillitis could be:
Lasting between 3 days and 2 weeks. Acute tonsillitis affects both children and adults.
With multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis in a year. Recurrent tonsillitis is common in children, and may also occur in adults.
Causing symptoms that last for longer than 2 weeks. Chronic tonsillitis usually occurs in adults.
In rare cases, tonsillitis can evolve into a more serious condition called a peri-tonsillar abscess.
Why do some people get recurrent tonsillitis?
Some people suffer from recurrent streptococcal throat infections. The reason for this is not entirely clear. Recent research suggests that some people develop less of an immune response to toxins produced by streptococcal bacteria, making them more vulnerable to repeated infections. This vulnerability could have a genetic component.
Other reasons for recurrent or chronic throat infections include antibiotic-resistant bacteria or a weakened immune system. Previous radiation treatment increases your risk of chronic tonsillitis.
What can I expect from tonsillectomy surgery?
Tonsillectomy surgery may be combined with an adenoidectomy (the removal of the adenoids from the back of your nose). The surgery may be performed as a day or overnight procedure.
A tonsillectomy is a painful procedure. Dr Julia Crawford will prescribe pain medication, but you can expect fluctuating pain after surgery. Many patients find that pain peaks between 3 and 7 days after surgery, although it takes around 2 weeks to resolve completely. While recovering from surgery, throat pain may limit your ability to eat. However, it is important that you continue to drink adequate fluids.
Possible complications of tonsillectomy surgery include bleeding and infection.
How do I know if a tonsillectomy is right for me (or my child)?
Tonsillectomy is an effective treatment for recurrent tonsillitis in both adults and children.
During your consultation with Dr Crawford, she will establish how many bouts of tonsillitis you (or your child) have experienced. She will also assess the severity of these episodes and any associated conditions. She will then discuss the pros and cons of surgery with you, and recommend an individualised treatment plan.
If you (or your child) are experiencing recurrent or chronic tonsillitis, you can ask your GP for a specialist ENT referral. An appointment can be made with Dr Crawford at (02) 8319 9434.