What Causes Tonsil Inflammation?

Antibiotics may be necessary to treat some sources of tonsil inflammation.
A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Tonsil inflammation can be caused by several factors, most commonly infection. Bacterial or viral infections often cause tonsillitis, which may require antibiotic or antiviral treatment. There are other factors that may cause swollen tonsils as well, including seasonal allergies and sinusitis. Irritation from some types of food may also cause swollen and inflamed tonsils, as well as exposure to irritating substances such as tobacco smoke. More seriously, tumors of the throat may cause inflammation of the tonsils.

Tonsillitis, which is a condition that causes painful swelling and inflammation of the tonsils, typically occurs in school aged children, although many adults suffer from inflamed tonsils as well. Some individuals require surgical removal of their tonsils to prevent recurring bouts of tonsillitis. The common cold and influenza are known causes of tonsillitis, which may clear up without medical treatment. When tonsils become infected from bacteria however, antibiotic therapy may be necessary. Various types of viral and bacterial infections that cause inflammation include mononucleosis and strep throat.

Seasonal allergies can also cause tonsil inflammation in some individuals. Allergies to ragweed, pollen or dust often cause nasal and sinus congestion, and occasionally itchy throat and inflamed tonsils. In addition, sinusitis may cause the tonsils to become inflamed. In such a case, a physician may prescribe antihistamines to reduce the sinus and tonsil irritation.

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Although it is not common, there are certain foods that may cause a sore throat and inflamed tonsils. Seeds and pulp from foods may become trapped inside the nooks of the tonsil tissue. If the food particles remain lodged in the tonsil tissue, inflammation may occur. The best way to prevent this is by gargling with warm salt water, which may help dislodge small food particles such as seeds. Alternatively, using an antiseptic mouth rinse may prevent food particles from adhering to the tonsils.

Another common cause of throat and tonsil inflammation is exposure to pollution or inhalation of chemical substances. Chemical plant workers often inhale agents that cause sore throat and inflamed tonsils, and over time this may lead to other health complications. Similarly, individuals who are exposed to irritants such as tobacco smoke may also suffer from inflammation of the tonsils.

One of the most serious causes of inflamed tonsils are throat tumors. In the early stages, throat cancer may cause severe pain, cough, difficulty swallowing and inflamed tonsils. Although cancer of the larynx is more common, cancer of the tonsils may also cause swelling, inflammation and extreme pain. A biopsy of the throat tissue may determine if cancer is present, and treatment may include radiation therapy or surgery.

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Discuss this Article

anon324825
Post 2

About 10 years ago I had my tonsils removed due to recurring tonsilitis. I was advised by a doctor-friend that it might be from certain foods that I was consuming.

So I went vegetarian one week and gradually started introducing certain meats week by week. It turned out poultry was the cause. Because poultry is in almost everything we consume, I repeatedly kept on getting sick. I made the decision to remove my tonsils after being sick for two years straight. I'm glad I made that decision and I appreciate the doctor-friends who helped me self-research and dig into the issue.

anon321125
Post 1

I've always had big tonsils, and often get those gross tonsil stones too. A few days ago, I decided to eat a diet almost completely based on fruits and veggies, with limited dairy. Today is day four. This morning, my tonsils were way smaller! I don't know if it was eliminating the grains, the sugar, the meat, or what, but clearly something in my diet causes the inflammation. Maybe this knowledge will help you?

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