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What is the Connection Between Sore Throat and Tonsillitis?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sore throat and tonsillitis usually go hand-in-hand. When people first develop cases of tonsillitis, they will normally feel pain in the throat as one of their very first symptoms, and this pain is often quite severe. There are also many common causes between different types of sore throat and tonsillitis cases. For example, the strep bacteria has the potential to cause both sore throat and tonsillitis, as so do many viruses. There is also commonly significant overlap with treatments for various kinds of sore throat and tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is basically just a tissue infection. The tonsils will become inflamed and swollen, and they usually get covered in pus. It can be caused by numerous bacterial infestations and viruses, many of which are contagious. When the infection clears up, the tonsils will generally return to normal, although it can potentially take several weeks.

Some people have repeated problems with sore throat and tonsillitis that become chronic. After a while, doctors might recommend removal of the tonsils as a possible treatment strategy. The tonsils do actually serve a purpose as a filter for bacteria entering the body, but if they’re gone, the rest of the body's immune responses are generally able to compensate, and people don’t seem to have any additional difficulties. In an ideal situation, the tonsils could potentially make the immune system more efficient, so doctors are reluctant to remove them, but they aren’t crucial, and removal can be better than chronic infections. There was a time when doctors didn’t believe the tonsils had any use at all, and during that time, they were generally much quicker to remove them.

Treatment for tonsillitis will generally depend on what is actually causing the particular case. For bacterial cases, doctors usually use antibiotics. When people suffer from tonsillitis caused by viruses, that option won’t work. In those cases, doctors allow the patient’s immune system to do the heavy lifting, and simultaneously, they will treat the symptoms, including the pain from the sore throat. Sometimes people can benefit from gargling warm salt water repeatedly throughout the day.

Other than the sore throat, tonsillitis also has a few other notable symptoms, and these can vary significantly depending on which virus or bacterium is responsible. Many tonsillitis sufferers eventually develop a fever, and sometimes it can be fairly high. They can have trouble swallowing food because of the size of the tonsils, and some individuals may have a noticeable change to the sound of their voice.

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