What is tonsillitis? It’s is a word I grew up with. Whenever I would go into the doctor’s office with a sore throat, and I often did, the word would inevitably come up. Other words like strep, viral, bacterial, and inflammation would take their turns, but the term always bubbled up. Let’s take a moment to figure out exactly what this seemingly catch-all term really means.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery addresses the question of what is tonsillitis quite well:
Tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils (glands at the back of the throat, visible through the mouth). The inflammation may involve other areas of the back of the throat, including the adenoids and the lingual tonsils (tonsil tissue at the back of the tongue). There are several variations of tonsillitis: acute, recurrent, and chronic tonsillitis, and peritonsillar abscess.
Viral or bacterial infections and immunologic factors lead to tonsillitis and its complications. Nearly all children in the United States experience at least one episode. Due to improvements in medical and surgical treatments, complications associated with tonsillitis, including mortality, are rare.
There you have it. Knowing that you have tonsillitis is like knowing that you have a sore throat. Why you have it is a much more important question than what is tonsillitis? Is it caused by a virus, a bacterial infection, or an allergy? Treatments for each are unique. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. They are of no use in treating allergies or viruses.
The other question, and the one that may underlay the others, is how often does the inflammation occur? In my case, the frequency of tonsillitis over a period of time helped my doctor, and ultimately me, to make the decision to have a tonsillectomy.
It’s funny- since I don’t have tonsils anymore, I really don’t get tonsillitis much! What is tonsillitis to a man without tonsils?