Peritonsillar abscess: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

Peritonsillar abscess is a rare complication of bacterial infections, characterized by a collection of pus in the region around the tonsil and symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, fever, change in voice and headache, for example.

In most cases, peritonsillar abscess, also called peritonsillar abscess, is associated with infection by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes,  as a consequence of tonsillitis, and is more common in children, adolescents or young adults.

Treatment of peritonsillar abscess is carried out by an otorhinolaryngologist who may recommend the use of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications, drainage of the pus, and, in some cases, surgery to remove the tonsils.

Symptoms of peritonsillar abscess

The main symptoms of peritonsillar abscess are:

  • Swelling of the area around the tonsil;
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing;
  • Intense pain in the region where the tonsils are located;
  • Sore throat that may extend to the ear;
  • Voice change;
  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Earache, in some cases;
  • Intense bad breath.

If these symptoms are present, it is important to consult an otorhinolaryngologist so that the peritonsillar abscess can be diagnosed and the most appropriate treatment can be started, in order to avoid complications, such as abscesses in the pharynx region or even generalized infection.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of peritonsillar abscess is made by the otolaryngologist through the evaluation of symptoms and by performing a visual examination, in which swelling of the tissues around the infected tonsil and displacement of the uvula are observed.

If you have symptoms of peritonsillar abscess, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist in the nearest region:

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In addition, the doctor may request tests such as a blood count, C-reactive protein, heterophile antibody test, X-ray, computed tomography or intraoral ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other diseases with similar symptoms, such as infectious mononucleosis, dental infections or pharyngitis, for example.

The doctor may also collect a sample of secretion from the throat to be evaluated in the laboratory, making it possible to identify the infectious agent responsible for this change.

Possible causes

A peritonsillar abscess is caused by bacterial infections as a result of tonsillitis, which is inflammation of the tonsils. This condition is more common in people who have recurring tonsillitis attacks. Learn more about tonsillitis .

The main bacteria that can lead to the appearance of a peritonsillar abscess is  Streptococcus pyogenes , also known as group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.

However, although less common, peritonsillar abscess can also be caused by microorganisms such as staphylococci, pneumococci,  Lactobacillus , Actinomyces or Micrococcus .

How is the treatment done?

Treatment of peritonsillar abscess should be carried out under the guidance of an otorhinolaryngologist and consists of draining the abscess to prevent complications, in addition to the subsequent use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to combat bacterial proliferation and provide relief from symptoms.

In some cases, especially in cases of recurrent tonsillitis, after draining the abscess, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tonsils, a tonsillectomy, with the aim of preventing new attacks of tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess. Learn how surgery to remove tonsils is performed.


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