Cover image for tonsillitis in adults

Let’s clear some doubts first. Tonsillitis is one disease that can occur in any group. It’s just that children are more likely to suffer from them more as their immune system is still developing. Furthermore, another fact to note is that tonsillitis is contagious in nature which means they can spread from person to person. (Also Read: Types of Tonsils: Pictures, Diagnosis, and Home Remedies )

So what is tonsillitis? The infection of the tonsils which are lymph nodes located at the back of the throat is known as tonsillitis. To understand the cure for tonsillitis, it is important to know its basics. 

Read along as we discuss the types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and possible treatment options of tonsillitis in this blog. 

Types of Tonsillitis in Adults 

In adults, three types of tonsillitis can occur. Each of them is explained below-

Acute tonsillitis

The symptoms of this type of tonsillitis last around ten or more days. This can easily be treated with home remedies as well as antibiotics. Children are more likely to suffer from acute tonsillitis.

Chronic tonsillitis

Chronic tonsillitis is defined as  a prolonged tonsil infection, i.e., the signs of chronic tonsillitis like sore throat, bad breath, tonsil stones, tenderness of the lymph nodes, etc., last over a long period of time. Based on the cause, types of chronic tonsillitis are bacterial and viral tonsillitis. This type of tonsillitis when there is an excess build-up of dead cells, saliva, and food. 

Recurrent tonsillitis

Recurrent tonsillitis can be defined as-
– Tonsillitis occurs 5 to 7 times in a year
– Occurs 5 times in the last two years
– Occurs 3 times in the last three years 

Causes of Tonsillitis in Adults

The most common cause of enlarged tonsils in adults is a bacterial or viral infection of the tonsils. Some other causes of tonsilltis are mentioned below-

Bacterial and viral infections

Bacterial tonsillitis

This is most common among the age group between 5 and 15. Some of the most common type of bacterias that can infect the tonsils are-

  • Streptococcus bacteria 
  • Staphylococcus 
  • Chlamydia 
  • Bordetella 
  • Fusobacterium
  • Neisseria 

Viral tonsillitis 

Apart from bacteria, viruses can also infection in the tonsils. Some of them are-  

  • Adenoviruses
  • Rhinoviruses 
  • Flu viruses
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Measles virus 

Read More: Difference between Viral and Bacterial Tonsillitis

Risk factors for Tonsillitis in Adults

Although tonsillitis is more common in kids and teens, adults are also at the risk of developing tonsillitis. The following factors increase the risk of tonsillitis in adults-


  • Living in close proximity to children

As children are more likely to suffer from tonsillitis, spending time with them increases the chances of getting tonsillitis in parents, grandparents or teachers. 

  • Age

After puberty, there is no significant role of tonsils in the immune system. Hence, when germs enter the body, the tonsils can get infected as with age the immune system weakens. 

Symptoms of Tonsillitis in Adults

Depending on the severity of the problem, the symptoms can vary in each patient. However, there are some common tonsillitis symptoms in adults which are discussed below-

  • Swelling of the tonsils
  • Redness around the tonsils
  •  Spots or patches of yellow, gray, or white color (Also Read: White Spots on the Throat)
  • Blisters around the throat
  • Painful sores of the throat
  • Soreness of the throat suddenly
  • Difficulty while swallowing
  • Pain while gulping (Also read: What to do when something feels stuck in my throat?)
  • Snores while asleep
  • Bad breath 
  • Terrible headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling of tiredness
  • Fever with chills
  • Soreness and tenderness of the lymph nodes in the neck or jaw area
  • Stomachache
  • Coughing 
  • Stiffness in the neck 

Complications of Tonsillitis in Adults

When left untreated for a while, tonsillitis can cause the following complications in adults.

Secondary infections

The infections of the tonsils can spread to other parts such as nose, sinuses or ears and cause an infection inside them. 

Chronic tonsillitis

The infection in the tonsils don’t cure and the person keeps on suffering from sore throat and bad breath. 

Obstructive sleep apnea

This occurs when the infected tonsils become so large that they obstruct the flow of air. The apnea generally occurs when the individual is sleeping hence, this results in disturbed sleeping patterns. 

Peritonsillar abscess

The infection can spread in the surrounding tissue and even cause a pus-filled abscess also known as Peritonsillar abscess. This is a painful condition as it can compress the air passages. 

Know More: 5 Major Complications of Tonsillitis 

Diagnosis for Tonsillitis in Adults

When you reach the doctor’s office, he or she will start to have a look at the throat to check for any spots or swelling. Furthermore, he will conduct a general examination and go through the patient’s medical history by asking some questions. 

To know the exact cause of tonsillitis, the doctor may take some tissues from the back of the throat with the help of a sterile swab and send it to labs. In addition to this, a sample of blood can also be sent to the lab to check the levels of certain types of blood cells. 

Treatment for Tonsillitis in Adults 

Home remedies for tonsillitis

To get relief from the discomfort or pain caused due to tonsillitis, try the following remedies-

  • Instead of carrying on with daily chores, get enough rest to let the body preserve energy to fight infections.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially warm to prevent dehydration and get a soothing effect. Make sure that you avoid caffeinated products such as coffee. 
  • Gargle with warm water to get relief.
  • Take throat lozenges.
  • Stay away from tobacco and locations with smoke.

Also Read: How To Take Care of Tonsillitis at Home

Medicines for Tonsillitis for Adults

ENT doctors often give antibiotics to patients to cure tonsillitis caused by bacterial infections. But the treatment is different for tonsillitis caused by viral infections. Tonsillitis caused by cold requires other medicines. 

Also Read: Antibiotics for Tonsil Pain

Surgery for Tonsillitis 

In cases of chronic and recurring tonsillitis, removing the tonsils surgically is the only option. When inflamed tonsils cause difficulty in breathing or causing sleep apnea, then ENT doctors recommend surgery. Want to know what happens during a tonsillectomy?

Also Read: What are the precautions to be taken after tonsil surgery?

Interested to know more about tonsillectomy surgery? Drop your query below or consult with an ENT specialist today!

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