Peritonsillar Abscess – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is a peritonsillar abscess?
Peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus near the tonsils due to infection behind the tonsils. One or both tonsils become infected when a peritonsillar abscess forms. Most often, the infection spreads beyond the tonsils into the neck and chest. Swollen tissues can block the airway.
The abscess can rupture or break open into the throat. The contents of the abscess can travel into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
What causes peritonsillar abscess?
Peritonsillar abscess is a complication of tonsillitis. It is most often caused by infection by bacteria called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.
What are the symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess?
The following are the common symptoms of peritonsillar abscess:
- Severe throat pain on the side of the abscess
- Ear pain on the side of the abscess
- Muffled voice
- Facial or neck swelling
- Fever and chills
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Pain with opening the mouth
- Swallowing difficulties
- Drooling or inability to swallow saliva
- Tender glands of the jaw and throat
How is peritonsillar abscess diagnosed?
The doctor will review the symptoms and perform a physical exam with special attention to mouth, neck, and throat. A close exam of the throat may reveal swelling on one side and on the roof of the mouth. The doctor may find the changed position of the uvula in the back of the throat due to swelling. He/she may find redness and swelling on both sides of the neck and throat.
The doctor may order the following tests:
- CT scan
- Fiber optic endoscopy to check if the airway is blocked
- Needle aspiration of the abscess
How is peritonsillar abscess treated?
The doctor will treat with antibiotics if there is only mild infection without an abscess. If an abscess has developed, the doctor will drain it with a needle or by cutting it open.
If the infection is very severe, the doctor will remove the tonsils surgically at the same time the abscess is drained.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.