White Patches on Tonsils

White patches and inflammation of tonsils is suggesting formation of pus. They are usually associated with medical conditions like sore throat, tonsil stones and tonsillitis.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Did You Know?
The presence of white spots or patches on tonsils is an indication of accumulation of pus on tonsils. This is usually accompanied by throat discomfort, painful swallowing and fever.
When the throat hurts persistently, it is pointing towards the fact that something is wrong with the tonsils. Tonsils are two almond-shaped glandular tissues located just below the oral activity. They are an integral part of immune system and produce white blood cells to prevent harmful microbes from entering the body. However, sometimes tonsils are overpowered by these disease-causing germs. As a result, tonsils become red and inflamed. It is discussed below:
Causes
Tonsil Stones
In this condition, the crevices or the nooks of the tonsils show formation of white hardened deposits of debris that is made up of mucus, bacteria, dead cells and food particles. As aforementioned, tonsils contain infection fighting cells and so harmful microbes that stick to these tissues are eventually destroyed. However, over time, this trapped junk on the tonsils may solidify and get infected, leading to tonsil stones. People diagnosed with tonsil stones tend to have bad breath and earache.
Treatment: Treatment for tonsil stones is not necessary if they are not causing any discomfort. However, for large stones, surgically removing them is the only option.
Tonsillitis
Inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis) is typically marked by raised body temperature, that is, fever and difficulty in swallowing food. Careful examination of tonsils in this condition has revealed the occurrence of white spots on tonsils, which is nothing but the formation of pus. The presence of pus on tonsils is an indication of viral or bacterial infection. This condition can lead to other symptoms like stiff neck, fever and headache as well.
Treatment: If on examination of the throat, tonsillitis is diagnosed and caused due to bacterial infection, taking antibiotics is the mainstay of the treatment. The doctor may recommend a surgery (tonsillectomy) that involves taking out the tonsils, when the child suffers from frequent episodes of tonsillitis.
Strep Throat
The term 'strep throat' refers to the bacterial infection of the throat and this can lead to the development of white spots on tonsils. This condition can cause severe throat pain, especially when swallowing food. This condition triggers uneasiness and an unusual scratchy feeling in the throat. In addition to enlarged tonsils, the person may also have swollen lymph nodes and a fever over 101 degree Fahrenheit.
Treatment: When it comes to treating strep throat patients, taking antibiotics in the recommended dosage, is all that is needed to tackle this throat condition successfully.
Oral Thrush
Oral thrush, which is nothing but a fungal infection of the mouth can also be the culprit behind the appearance of white spots on tonsils. The fungus that invades the lining of the mouth and causes this infection, is often referred to as yeast or Candida albicans. These microorganisms are always present in the mouth and the intestine and cause no harm until their population crosses the normal limit. Oral thrush caused by overgrowth of yeast is characterized by formation of white lesions that are seen on the inner cheeks and tongue but in most cases these cream-colored deposits are also noticed on the tonsils and the roof of the mouth. Although in this case the tonsils might not appear swollen, the patient is unable to enjoy the natural taste of food. People put on chemotherapy drugs or those with impaired immune system due to poor nutrition are likely to suffer from oral thrush. Medical problems such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS also increase the risk of oral thrush.
Treatment: For oral thrush, taking plain homemade yogurt and antifungal medicines as instructed by the doctor, helps to cure the infection.
Mononucleosis
This is a viral infection that causes persistent tiredness, headache and fever. Mononucleosis patients who are generally adolescents, also complain about severe sore throat that is typically marked by swollen pus-covered tonsils. The lymph nodes situated in the neck area are swollen and a rash may occur anywhere on the body.
Treatment: Treatment for mononucleosis revolves around self care measures but in some cases, the patient is put on antibiotics if a secondary bacterial infection soon follows after the initial onset of mononucleosis.
Diphtheria
This is a serious respiratory infection that primarily affects the throat and the nostrils. Caused by corynebacterium diphtheriae strains of bacteria, diphtheria is typically marked by fever, inflamed lymph nodes of the neck area, trouble breathing and swallowing food. Upon examining the throat, a thick gray-white membrane is seen coating the pharynx and the tonsils. In some cases, large gray or white patches cover the swollen tonsils. Children, especially below 5 years of age, are susceptible to this infection. However, occurrence of diphtheria in countries like United States and England is a rarity due to extensive implementation of immunization programs.
Treatment: Vaccination is the best way to prevent diphtheria. As far as treatment is concerned, an antitoxin is administered intravenously to combat the infection. Antibiotics such as penicillin may also be used to treat diphtheria.
Vincent's Angina
This is a bacterial infection that is typically marked by formation of ulcers on the tonsils, pharynx and in the oral cavity. Proliferation of fusobacterium and spirochetes strains of bacteria in the oral activity are responsible for causing Vincent's angina. Initially, the ulceration is visible on the gingival tissue (gums) and as the infection spreads, ulcers begin to form on the tonsils. The ulcers developed, tend to bleed easily when touched. Apart from ulceration, white spots may also be visible on the tonsils.
Treatment: Antibiotics is the first line of treatment for Vincent's Angina. Amongst the different types of antibiotics available, those belonging to the penicillin group are found to be most effective.
Pharyngitis
This is an infection that affects the pharynx, a portion of the throat that starts from the tonsils and ends at the larynx (voice box). Most cases of pharyngitis are typically marked by inflammation of both the tonsils and the pharynx. The inflamed tonsils also show formation of pus that appears as white patches. Pharyngitis can be viral, bacterial or fungal in origin. However, majority of cases are causes by viruses that lead to fever, chills, throat pain and difficulty swallowing.
Treatment: Doctor may advice the patient to undergo strep test to check whether the infection is caused by streptococcus bacteria. If the results confirm the presence of bacteria, antibiotics would be the first choice for treating pharyngitis. However, a large fraction of people tend to suffer from viral pharyngitis and in such a scenario taking antibiotics would not be appropriate. Viral pharyngitis resolves within a week or two without any medical treatment.
Home Remedies
Often, medical assistance is not necessary and simple home remedies work to resolve the issue. They are discussed below:
As throat infection can be contagious, so one should avoid going to the office and take rest at home. Drinking plenty of water can also help to reduce fever and get rid of infection faster. Antibacterial activity of table salt is well-known and moreover it also shows antiviral and antifungal properties. So, gargling with warm salt water can also benefit to alleviate throat discomfort. As far as diet is concerned, avoid consuming spicy and hot foods, raw vegetables, chips and high acidic foods such as tomato sauce as they can irritate the throat and aggravate the pain. Dairy products such as ice cream may help to relieve the pain. Unhealthy habits like smoking also need to be stopped immediately, as the cigarette smoke can worsen the condition and increase the risk of complications. Taking OTC painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also help to get relief from painful throat.
Complications
As throat problems such as tonsillitis and strep throat cause discomfort when ingesting food, one simply cannot afford to ignore treatment. In case treatment is delayed, the problem may aggravate and spread to other parts of the body. To be precise, the inflamed tonsils may not allow the person to breathe properly. Unfortunately, complications of ignoring treatment are not limited to breathing problems. Untreated strep throat can also make the patient highly susceptible to infections of the ear and the sinus. On rare occasions, it can cause kidney problems such as glomerulonephritis.
Throat Swab Culture
Prescription treatment cannot begin, unless the germs that are responsible for causing white patches on tonsils are identified. This can be achieved by analyzing a sample of throat swab in the laboratory. A sterilized cotton swab is wiped repeatedly across the back of the throat, and the tonsils. The cotton swab is then analyzed under a microscope to identify the germs. Certain chemical tests on the sample are also conducted to know the type of infection.
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.