What Is Chronic Tonsillitis?

Someone with chronic tonsillitis will experience a sore throat.
A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Chronic tonsillitis is a condition in which recurring viral or bacterial infections of the tonsils lead to constant inflammation and soreness. When the tonsils are chronically inflamed, they swell and lead to significant, persistent pain in the throat and jaw. The condition is most often seen in children and adolescents under the age of 15, though adults can also develop lasting tonsil problems. Surgery is necessary in most cases of chronic tonsillitis to relieve symptoms and help prevent future throat infections.

The tonsils are two masses of tissue located on either side of the throat near the jaw. Their exact function is not well understood, but they appear to play a role in preventing throat and respiratory infections. The glands themselves, however, are very susceptible to infection in children and adults. When the tonsils experience multiple infections, small openings called crypts form in which bacteria can accumulate. Bacteria that build up over time cause bad breath and set the stage for frequent infections and chronic tonsillitis.

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The symptoms associated with chronic tonsillitis are often very uncomfortable. A person is likely to experience swallowing difficulties and frequent sore throats due to inflammation and swelling. The lower jaw feels sore and very tender to the touch, and pain in and under the ears is common. In addition, some people suffer from headaches and fevers that last days at a time. Without treatment, it is possible for swelling and infection to become severe enough to cause dangerous airway constriction, abscesses in the throat, and full body chills.

A physician or dentist can usually diagnose chronic tonsillitis by reviewing the patient's medical history and inspecting the tonsils with medical instruments. If he or she has experienced multiple throat infections in the recent past, it is likely that the tonsils are significantly damaged and very susceptible to pathogens. The doctor can use a swab to collect a sample of mucus from a tonsil to confirm the presence of a specific bacteria or virus.

Instances of acute tonsillitis are treated with antibiotics or antiviral drugs, but chronic problems do not typically respond to medication. Surgery is usually needed to remove the tonsils and repair surrounding throat tissue. A tonsillectomy is performed by a surgeon called an otolaryngologist, often in an outpatient clinic or private office. The procedure only takes about one hour and has a high success rate. By following a special diet, taking antibiotics, and attending checkups, patients often experience full recoveries from their symptoms within two months.

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Discuss this Article

Oceana
Post 6

I had chronic tonsillitis and infected tonsil crypts. They made me have bad breath. The debris that collected there was mucus from a nasal drip and food particles. The accumulation of this stuff makes tonsil stones.

These tonsil stones are called tonsilloliths, and they caused me to have a raspy voice and offensive breath. What actually caused the bad breath was sulfur-producing bacteria. The debris in the crypts and the sulfur caused a toxic reaction that produced bad breath.

My doctor told me I could do something to control it. He said I should gargle with a saline-soda solution three times each day.

wavy58
Post 5

@kylee07drg – It's good that you decided not to have surgery. Doctors these days actually prefer to take a wait and see approach.

My child had frequent throat infections. The doctor told us that to be considered a candidate for surgery, a child must have either 5 cases of tonsillitis in one year or 3 or 4 per year over a period of several years. He actually recommended that we wait and see what happens.

He informed me that tonsillitis often improves as the child ages. Sure enough, during the next year, my daughter only got a sore throat twice, and the following year, it only happened once.

orangey03
Post 4

I had chronic tonsillitis. Strep bacteria often inflamed my throat, and I had to take antibiotics for it. I was a small child and hated how the antibiotics made everything I ate taste bad for a week, but my doctor told my mother that serious complications can arise from untreated strep throat.

If left untreated, strep bacteria can spread and infect the middle ear, the sinuses, and the kidneys. Since I was too young to understand this, my mom just told me that my head would explode if I didn't take the medicine. That worked.

Eventually, after several battles with strep and a lot of missed time at school, I had to have my tonsils removed. I'm glad that I did, because sore throats were the absolute worst.

kylee07drg
Post 3

As a child, I stayed sick with colds a lot. I remember staying home from school with sore throats on many occasions.

My mom took me to our doctor. He said that I likely had chronic tonsillitis and that I should have my tonsils removed.

Once we got home, I told her I did not want them taken out, and she agreed that we shouldn't. That same doctor had recommended that my older sister have her tonsils removed. She didn't, and she turned out fine.

After a few years, the frequency of my sore throats lessened. I guess I didn't have chronic tonsillitis after all.

dimpley
Post 2

Chronic tonsilitis is truly miserable for the people who have it. I used to be a teacher and I had one child who constantly had an antibiotic on board and could barely eat.

For a while, things just went along with her pushing through the best that she could, but eventually her mother pressed her doctor for more than just medicine. After all, her child was utterly miserable all of the time.

As a result, the child had both her tonsils and adenoids removed. The next three years of her high school career were sickness free!

Domido
Post 1

It seemed that as a child growing up, I constantly had a sore throat, runny nose, headaches, coughs – these kinds of little bouts just never went away.

Then when I moved out of the house at eighteen, everything mysteriously cleared up. I now know that what appeared to be chronic tonsillitis might have been related to second hand smoke.

I know it seems like my parents probably should have taken me to the doctor, and on several occasions they did. I was always just given some antibiotics and sent home. However, they were definitely of a mind that children didn’t need to go to the doctor over every little thing as well.

Come to find out, my chronic tonsilitis might have been more of an allergy than anything else. When my mom quit smoking after thirty years of die-hard puffing, her same symptoms disappeared as well.

I don't know why no one ever suggested surgery, but that I know of, no one did.

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