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What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis refers to the inflammation of a tonsil – the large, fleshy, oval masses of tissue that lie in the lateral wall of the oral pharynx on either side of the throat. These clusters of tissue contain cells that produce antibodies that are helpful in fighting infection.

What causes tonsillitis?

There are many possible, highly contagious bacterial and viral causes of tonsillitis. Causes of tonsillitis include the following:

  • Streptococcus (commonly referred to as “strep”) bacteria (the most common cause of tonsillitis)
  • adenoviruses
  • the influenza virus
  • the Epstein-Barr virus
  • parainfluenza viruses
  • enteroviruses
  • the herpes simplex virus
Treatment for tonsillitis:

Specific treatment for tonsillitis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • cause of the infection
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Tonsillitis caused by a viral infection is treated differently than tonsillitis caused by a bacterial infection. Generally, tonsillitis caused by a bacterial strep infection can be successfully treated with an antibiotic medication. Viral tonsillitis is not treated with antibiotic medications, as antibiotics are ineffective at defeating viral infections, but may be treated with other antiviral medications.