What is Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess?

When a sore forms near the tonsil, and gets filled with pus, a tonsil abscess or throat abscess occurs. The occurrence is actually the result of tonsillitis complication. Bacterial infection is the major and often cause of abscess. You are likely to confuse the symptoms of tonsil abscess or throat abscess to those of tonsillitis or strep throat. There are several ways of treating a tonsil abscess or throat abscess, which include the use of antibiotics. Although full recovery is possible, treatment should be done immediately to prevent other serious problems which can occur.

The bacterial infection is a complication of untreated tonsillitis or strep throat, which forms a pocket filled with pus around your tonsils. Tonsil abscess or throat abscess occurs mostly in children, young adults or adolescents. It is at the beginning or the end of winter seasons that tonsil abscess or throat abscess occur. At this time tonsillitis and strep throat illnesses are widespread.

What is Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess?

What is a Quinsy in Your Throat?

Quinsy is also known as tonsil abscess or throat abscess, it is a rare and a potential critical tonsillitis complication. The abscess, which is a collection of pus, develops between your throat wall and one tonsil. It usually happens as a result of bacterial infection spreading around an infected tonsil.

Is Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess Contagious?

Although tonsil abscess or throat abscess is contagious, it is mild since the infection spreads to others, specifically through saliva or nasal secretions. You are therefore safe if you do not make any contact with the fluids.

Is There Any Work Restriction for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess?

Uncomplicated cases of tonsil abscess or throat abscess cannot restrict you from working, but talking and swallowing might be difficult until pain and swelling reduce.

What is the Treatment for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess?

You can treat an early tonsil abscess or throat abscess using antibiotics and steroids. However, despite responding to the drugs, you must carry out drainage, which is carried out by your doctor or an ENT specialist.

Causes of Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

Tonsil abscess or throat abscess are a result of tonsillitis complication. An abscess forms when an infection breaks out and spread around an infected tonsil. Tonsil abscess or throat abscess are currently less common, due to the use of antibiotics in treating strep throat and tonsillitis.

Other causes of tonsil abscess or throat abscess include mononucleosis. The bacteria are commonly known as mono. Tooth and gum infections are also a major cause of tonsil abscess or throat abscess. However, tonsil abscess or throat abscess can occur without infection, but in rare cases. The occurrence is due to inflammation of Weber's glands which are located under the tongue and their main function is to produce saliva.

Signs and Symptoms of Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

Tonsil abscess or throat abscess has similar symptoms to tonsillitis and strep throat. However, with TA you can see abscess at the back of your throat appearing like a swollen and whitish blister or boil. The signs and symptoms of tonsil abscess or throat abscess include:

  • An infection on either of the tonsils is a first symptom of tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth wide
  • Difficulty to swallow saliva which is known as drooling is a major symptom of tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • The face or the neck becomes swollen during tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • Headache
  • Rough and deaden voice
  • Sore throat
  • Unfavorable breathe
  • Other symptoms of tonsil abscess or throat abscess include the glands in the throat and jaw gets swollen which you notice by a tender touch. Also, there is ear pain, on the side of the sore throat.

However, tonsil abscess or throat abscess can cause serious symptoms, which include:

  • Infection of the lungs.
  • Blockage of the airway.
  • Rupturing of the tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • The infection spreads to the mouth, neck, chest and throat is a major complication of tonsil abscess or throat abscess.

Rupturing of the abscess can cause infection throughout the body, besides causing more blockages in the airway. It is advisable to contact your doctor since some of these symptoms might be signs of other problems.

Risk Factors for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

Tonsil abscess or throat abscess occurs more in males and people aged between 20 to 40 years. Also, there are other factors that increase your chances of developing tonsil abscess or throat abscess. These risk factors for tonsil abscess or throat abscess include:

  • Tonsillitis or strep pharyngitis is a major risk factor for tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • Tonsillitis that is caused by other bacteria.
  • Mononucleosis.
  • Recent dental or throat infection.
  • Smoking.
  • Periodontal disease.

Complications in Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

Some of the tonsil abscess or throat abscess complications include:

  • Blockage of the airway is a leading complication of tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • Neck and jaw become swollen.
  • Endocarditis, which is a very rare complication of tonsil abscess or throat abscess.
  • There is development of fluids around the lungs.
  • An inflammation near the heart.
  • Blood becomes infected (known as sepsis) is a complication of tonsil abscess or throat abscess.

Tests to Diagnose Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

Diagnosis of tonsil abscess or throat abscess is based on physical examination and history of the patient. However, your tonsil abscess or throat abscess can be easily treated when it is large and can be seen. The doctor uses a light and a tongue depressor, to look into your mouth. In case there is swelling and redness on either side of the throat around the tonsil, it suggests the presence of tonsil abscess or throat abscess. Your doctor might go ahead to gently push the section with a gloved finger to determine if there is pus from the infection.

Although lab tests and X-rays are rarely used, your doctor can decide to carry an X-ray, to ensure there is no other upper airway illness. Some of these upper air illnesses include:

  • Epiglottis becoming swollen
  • Retropharyngeal abscess, where a pocket of pus develops beneath the soft tissue at the back of your throat.
  • Peritonsillar cellulites, where the soft tissue become infected.

You may also be tested for mononucleosis virus, as experts associate 20 percent of the virus with tonsil abscess or throat abscess. Some pus from the abscess may also be sent to the lab to determine the specific bacteria. However, lab tests rarely changes the treatment for tonsil abscess or throat abscess, unless your doctor decides otherwise.

Treatment for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

The most common form of tonsil abscess or throat abscess treatment is the use of antibiotics. However, to enable antibiotics to work effectively, doctors usually drain pus in the tonsil abscess or throat abscess. The drainage is done by cutting the abscess, in order to release the fluids. In other cases, needles are used. In addition, the procedures should only be done by ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) surgeons.

In case eating or drinking is a problem, you have no option but to receive hydration fluids intravenously. You may also be prescribed to take painkillers, if you are having excessive pain from tonsil abscess or throat abscess. If you have chronic strep throat and tonsillitis, where the tonsil abscess or throat abscess are reoccurring, you might be recommended to remove the tonsils by your doctor, to prevent infections that are severe occurring in future.

In case your throat is blocked, which puts your life in danger, your doctor's major concern will be to unblock your airway and ensure you can breathe. Therefore, his/ her initial step will be to ensure you breathe comfortably by inserting a needle in the pus pocket and draining away the fluid.

If you are not in immediate danger, your doctor will ensure the procedure is almost painless. A local anesthetic will be injected into your skin, over the tonsil abscess or throat abscess. If needed, then an IV (Intravenous fluid) will be inserted in your arm, for pain medication and sedation. Suction will then be used to aid you in preventing to swallow pus and blood.

However, your doctor has options for treating tonsil abscess or throat abscess:

  • One is the use of needle aspiration, which involves carefully putting a needle into the tonsil abscess or throat abscess, and withdrawing the pus into a syringe.
  • The other option for treating tonsil abscess or throat abscess is incision and drainage, where a small cut is made on the abscess, to enable pus to drain.
  • If have a story of tonsillitis reoccurring, or the drainage procedure cannot work with you, your tonsils can be removed.

When receiving antibiotics, your first dose might be administered through an IV (Intravenous fluid). The best drug for this type of infection is penicillin. However, it is good to inform your doctor if you are allergic, in order to get other drugs. The best alternative drugs for tonsil abscess or throat abscess are clindamycin or erythromycin.

Follow up for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

You should arrange your follow up with an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist or your doctor for tonsil abscess or throat abscess. In case the tonsil abscess or throat abscess starts to return, use a different antibiotic or drain further. You should seek immediate medical attention, in case you are bleeding excessively, or have difficulties in breathing and swallowing.

What are the Side Effects of the Treatments for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess?

Stomach upset, rash and allergic reactions may occur after taking antibiotics for tonsil abscess or throat abscess. Also, increased risk of infection and sleeplessness may be caused by corticosteroids. If your tonsil abscess or throat abscess is drained using a needle, there are few side effects and you feel better immediately when it is drained.

If the tonsil abscess or throat abscess is opened using a scalpel, few side effects are experienced, such as temporary bleeding. But in case tonsils are removed, you experience excessive bleeding for about 3 percent of the time. Abscess drainage stops pain within a short time. Tonsillectomy is like any other surgery, and sometimes it can be complicated by an infection, or an allergic reaction to anesthetic.

Recovery Period for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

If your tonsil abscess or throat abscess treatment is successful, your symptoms will improve rapidly and you return to your healthy state. However, tonsillectomy may be recommended to you by your healthcare provider, to avoid further tonsil abscess or throat abscess.

Your recovery period/healing time for tonsil abscess or throat abscess largely depends on your treatment mode, and it is only your doctor who can give you the approximate recovery time. You should also consult your doctor for the right recovery time and concerning the recurrence of tonsillitis.

Prognosis/Outlook for Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

The prognosis/outlook for tonsil abscess or throat abscess is great after treatment, as the tonsil abscess or throat abscess disappears without causing any further problems. However, you might get the infection in future.

If you have an uncomplicated and well treated tonsil abscess or throat abscess, you will recover fully. If your tonsillitis is not chronic, whereby your tonsils do not become inflamed regularly, the probability of abscess returning is minimal; the removal of your tonsils is of no importance.

However, complications occur in persons with diabetes, weak immune systems such as; cancer patients, persons with HIV/AIDS, transplant recipients who are using immune suppressing drugs, or those who do not take tonsil abscess or throat abscess as a serious illness, hence do not seek any medical attention. Major tonsil abscess or throat abscess complications include:

  • Blockage of the airway.
  • Dehydration due to swallowing difficulty.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Meningitis.
  • Bacterial infection in the bloodstream.
  • Tissues beneath the breastbone become infected.
  • Bleeding that results from abscess erosion into a major blood vessel.

Prevention of Tonsil Abscess or Throat Abscess

As most common cause of tonsil abscess or throat abscess is tonsillitis, you should begin treating tonsillitis immediately, to prevent tonsil abscess or throat abscess. You increase the chances of getting tonsil abscess or throat abscess when you delay the treatment of tonsillitis.

In case you contract mono virus, ensure you get treatment immediately, to prevent the occurrence of further complications. You should brush your teeth daily and get regular dental checkups, to maintain healthy teeth.

If you are a smoker, you should avoid or reduce smoking, besides keeping your mouth clean and healthy to minimize chances of tonsil abscess or throat abscess forming as smoking is a major risk factor. However, there is no specific and reliable means of preventing tonsil abscess or throat abscess apart from reducing risks by not smoking, maintaining a healthy dental hygiene, and treating dental infections promptly.

In case you develop peritonsillar cellulites, ensure you take antibiotics to prevent tonsil abscess or throat abscess. However, you need to be monitored for tonsil abscess or throat abscess or even be hospitalized. In case you experience tonsillitis frequently, your chances of forming a tonsil abscess or throat abscess are high, and you should therefore consult your doctor, to know whether your tonsil should be removed. Finally, just like with any medical prescription, you should finish your full course of antibiotics, despite feeling better before you finish the dose.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 10, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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