Tonsils are masses of lymphoid tissues that are located on either side of the back of the throat, while adenoids are lymphoid tissues that are located behind the uvula, higher up in the throat. These are considered to be a part of the lymphatic system. In the first year of life, these are considered to be the 'first line of defense' against pathogens that enter the body through the mouth, as they help the body form antibodies. There are times, when the tonsils become enlarged or inflamed due to an infection. Under such circumstances, white or yellow spots of pus may form on the tonsils. In severe cases, when such infections have been recurring, doctors might recommend the surgical removal of the tonsils.
The term tonsillitis refers to the inflammation of the tonsils. This is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. The condition is mainly characterized by a sudden or gradual onset of a sore throat, which is accompanied by fever. The surface of the tonsils and the area surrounding them turns red due to inflammation. At times, they might develop a grayish white coating. In chronic cases, the person may develop tonsil stones. The white spots on the tonsils could be hardened deposits of debris, which may contain food particles, bacteria, and dead cells.
Strep throat is a type of bacterial infection that is caused by the Streptococcus bacterium. It gives rise to symptoms such as a sudden onset of sore throat, pain while swallowing, fever over 101°F, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, and white or yellow spots on the back of a bright red throat. In rare cases, in the absence of treatment, strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, kidney problems (glomerulonephritis), or an abscess in the area around the tonsils.
Sometimes, causal bacteria for strep throat (Streptococci, Staphylococci) can spread to the soft tissues surrounding the tonsils, thereby causing an infection. This could lead to the formation of an abscess in the tissues of the throat next to one of the tonsils. Dental infections, chronic tonsillitis, infectious mononucleosis, tonsilloliths, smoking, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, etc., are some of the risk factors for this condition. It can give rise to symptoms such as throat pain on the affected side, difficulty and pain while opening the mouth, difficulty swallowing saliva, painful swallowing, fever, chills, muffled voice, ear pain on the affected side, etc.
- Pain or discomfort while swallowing or talking
- Swollen, painful lymph nodes in the neck
- Sore throat
- Red, inflamed tonsils
- Foul-smelling breath
- Chills and fever
- Weakness and fatigue
Since the major cause of pus on the tonsils is a bacterial or viral infection, the treatment involves the use of antibiotics or antiviral drugs. Also, analgesics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms caused by inflammation. If the infection is caused by the Streptococcus bacterium, oral or intravenous administration of antibiotics such as penicillin or clindamycin might be recommended. In case of an abscess, the doctor may insert a needle in the infected area to extract the pus. However, if tonsillitis has been recurring ever now and then, the surgical removal of the tonsils might be recommended.
Besides the aforementioned treatment options, the affected individual should drink plenty of fluids and gargle with warm salt water to get relief. Also, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Following a healthy diet will also strengthen the immune system, thereby lowering the risk of infections.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.