Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the glands of the throat, which are called the tonsils. The tonsils are a pair of soft tissue masses located at the rear of mouth on each side of the throat. The tonsils are different than the uvula. The uvula is the conic projection of tissue that hangs down from the roof of the mouth. Inflammation of the tonsils results in a sore throat. Tonsillitis can be caused by either viruses or bacteria. Most cases of tonsillitis resolve in a few days without antibiotic medication.
Whether viral or bacterial, tonsillitis is transmitted most commonly from one person to another by social contact such as droplets in the air from sneezing. Most of the time, tonsillitis is caused by a viral infection. Tonsillitis caused by strep throat is uncommon in both children and adults.
Bacterial tonsillitis can be caused by Streptococcus pyogenes,the organism that causes strep throat. If left untreated, strep throat may lead to a more serious condition called rheumatic fever, which can affect the heart several years later.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/14/2014
Joseph Lauro, MD
Erik D Barton, MD, MS
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