Signs and Symptoms:
Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis and adenoiditis may include red, swollen tonsils, white or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils, sore throat, pain and difficulty swallowing, drooling, fever, tender lymph nodes in the neck, bad breath, and in severe cases it can cause difficulty breathing due to swollen tonsils and adenoids narrowing the airway. In addition, adenoiditis may present as nasal obstruction and recurrent ear infections.
Seek immediate care if you have difficulty breathing, extreme difficulty swallowing, or excessive drooling.
Most cases of tonsillitis and adenoiditis are caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Appropriate therapy for tonsillitis and adenoiditis depends on the cause. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis by a medical professional. The most common bacteria causing tonsillitis and adenoiditis is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium that causes strep throat, however other strains of strep and other bacteria also may cause tonsillitis. Different viruses may also cause tonsillitis and adenoiditis. The Epstein Barr Virus can cause mononucleosis which can cause inflammation of the tonsils and adenoids as well as the lymph nodes in the neck.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
A thorough physical exam is typically all that is needed to diagnose tonsillitis and adenoiditis, however your medical provider may do a strep test (swabbing the tonsil area with a Q-tip like instrument) and/or blood work. An antibiotic is typically used to treat a bacterial infection. Viral infections are usually treated with supportive care including fever and pain reducing medications, hydration, and occasionally a steroid to help reduce swelling.
If tonsillitis and adenoiditis are not treated or if antibiotic treatment is incomplete, you have an increased risk of rare complications such as rheumatic fever – a serious inflammatory condition that can affect the heart, joints, nervous system and skin, scarlet fever – prominent rash, glomerulonephritis – inflammation of the kidney, and poststreptococcal reactive arthritis – inflammation of the joints.
Surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids, a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, is usually performed when tonsillitis and adenoiditis is a recurrent problem, doesn’t respond to other treatments, or causes serious complications.
Surgery is an outpatient procedure that is performed under general anesthesia. The surgery is performed through the mouth and the tonsils and adenoids are removed using a specialized surgical tool that uses high-energy heat or sound waves to remove the tonsils and adenoids and to stop bleeding.
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