OOA: The Tonsils & Tonsillitis


As your go-to ENT in Oklahoma, we at Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates want to educate you about the tonsils and what role they play in your body and immune system. They are an incredibly important element of immune system health and we want to make sure that our patients are properly educated and informed.

The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and the body’’s immune system as a first line of defense. The tonsils are the two round lumps in the back of the throat, and are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin, and armpits. The tonsils filter” bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose. The tonsils vary in size and swell in response to infection. At times, the tonsils can become a liability when they are not properly doing their job, and may even cause airway obstruction or repeated bacterial infections.

The two most common problems affecting the tonsils are recurrent infections of the nose and throat, and significant enlargement that causes nasal obstruction and breathing, swallowing, and sleep problems. You should see your doctor at OOA if you or your child experiences the common symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.


Acute tonsillitis is when bacteria or virus infects the tonsils, causing swelling and a sore throat. Some symptoms of tonsillitis are:

  • •Redder than normal tonsils

  • •A white or yellow coating on the tonsils

  • •A voice change (may be slight) due to swelling

  • •Sore throat, can be accompanied by ear pain.

  • •Uncomfortable or painful swallowing

  • •Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

  • •Fever

  • Bad breath

Other signs to look for of tonsil enlargement are:

  • •Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose

  • •Nose sounds “blocked” when speaking

  • •Chronic runny nose

  • •Noisy breathing in the daytime

  • •Recurrent ear infections

  • •Snoring

  • Restlessness sleep, pauses in breathing for a few seconds at a time

Other Tonsil Conditions

  • Acute tonsillitis: A bacteria or virus infects the tonsils, causing swelling and a sore throat.

  • Chronic tonsillitis: Persistent and repeated infection of the tonsils, usually a result of repeated episodes of acute tonsillitis.

  • Peritonsillar abscess: An infection creates a pocket of pus next to the tonsil, pushing it toward the opposite side.

  • Acute mononucleosis: Often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, “mono” causes severe swelling in the tonsils, fever, sore throat, rash, and fatigue.

  • Strep throat: Streptococcus, a bacterium, infects the tonsils and throat. Fever and neck pain often accompany the sore throat.

  • Enlarged (hypertrophic) tonsils: Large tonsils reduce the size of the airway, making snoring or sleep apnea more likely.

  • Tonsilloliths (tonsil stones): Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, are formed when this trapped debris hardens, or calcifies.

This is just the beginning of some introductory information about the tonsils and possible conditions that may affect them and your health. If you have any questions at all, please call us or make an appointment to make sure your tonsils and immune system are in good shape.

We at OOA are your ENT experts, and are ready to educate you, and support you in all things ENT.