Our tonsils are found at the back of our throat. Similar to lymph nodes, they are made of soft tissue and form an important part of our immune system. Tonsils contain a lot of white blood cells, which help us to fight germs. Our tonsils can also help to stop germs entering the body through our mouth or nose because of where they are positioned.
As we grow up, it can be quite common to have throat or tonsil infections. An infection of the tonsils is called tonsillitis. As we get older these infections become and less and less likely, especially from the age of about 20 upwards.
Tonsillitis can feel the same as having a bad cold or the flu, with symptoms such as:
- high temperature,
- feeling wiped out,
- sore throat,
- difficulty swallowing.
One obvious sign of having tonsillitis is that our tonsils (which we can see at the back of our throat when we open our mouth wide) become swollen and turn red. In more severe cases the glands in our neck can swell up, making us feel that we have lumps in our neck, and we might notice white, pus-filled spots on our tonsils.
The infection itself is not contagious, but it is caused by other illnesses such as colds and flu which are very easy to spread. If we are ill with tonsillitis, it is important to stay at home and get plenty of rest. We should use tissues whenever we cough or sneeze, making sure to throw them away afterwards. Cool drinks can often help to soothe the back of our throat, and a pharmacist may be able to supply treatments such as lozenges, throat sprays and antiseptic that help to relieve the discomfort and pain.
Tonsillitis usually clears up on its own after three to four days, but while we are ill it can feel very draining. Our throat and mouth can become very painful and uncomfortable, and we might get aches and pains elsewhere in our body too. It can affect our ability to go in to work, school or university, and can impact other areas of our life including our sleep.
If tonsillitis occurs regularly, or if the symptoms are particularly serious, an operation to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy)may be helpful.
I would only recommend a tonsillectomy when any other treatments have failed or when the tonsillitis keeps occurring. However, a tonsillectomy is a very safe procedure, and my team and I have performed hundreds of successful operations over the years. We will make sure that you are given the very highest quality of comfort and care for the whole time you are with us.
A tonsillectomy is performed under general anaesthetic, meaning you will be asleep. Because the tonsils are usually accessed through your mouth, there will not be any visible scars or marks. The procedure can vary depending on how old you are. The tonsils are removed and the blood vessels are sealed, and this can take up to an hour in total. At Circle we use cutting edge technology to make the procedure as safe, as painless and as quick as possible.
Normally you will be able to return home on the same day as the procedure, but you will need someone to give you a lift as it is not safe to drive after you've had a general anaesthetic.
I always tell people that it may take a couple of weeks for any throat pain to subside. Swallowing can be especially tricky, but it is really important that you persevere with eating and drinking as this will help your recovery. Avoid drinking fizzy, acidic or alcoholic drinks, as these can interfere with the healing process.
At Circle, our Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Unit specialises in giving an accurate diagnosis for any medical conditions relating to the ear, throat and nose, followed by the appropriate non-surgical or surgical treatment. I work as part of a wider team of experts, each with our own sub-speciality, and together we will identify and treat whatever problems you may be having, making sure that you get the best possible treatment and the highest quality of care.
As a dedicated throat and nose doctor, I have spent years helping people achieve a better quality of life by providing treatment for the range of illnesses and injuries that can hold us back. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of tonsillitis, I will be delighted to set you on the path to full recovery.
- Adenoid removal
- Deafness treatment
- Ear infection treatment
- ENT assessment
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery
- Grommets insertion (glue ear treatment)
- Head and neck malignancy surgery
- Hearing loss management
- Hoarseness diagnosis and treatment
- Nasal surgery (septoplasty)
- Pharyngeal pouch surgery
- Salivary gland surgery
- Sinusitis treatment
- Sleep apnoea treatment
- Snoring treatment
- Split earlobe repair
- Thyroid and parathyroid surgery
- Thyroid lobectomy
- Total thyroidectomy
- Tonsil removal (tonsillectomy)