It is very common for people to walk into the clinic and proclaim, “Doc, I have tonsils! Do something.”
Smilingly I say, “Welcome to the group! Even I have tonsils”. The look on their faces is worth a selfie 🙂
Having tonsils is not a disease. Tonsils are collections of lymphoid (our body’s immunity) tissue, in the form of two glands, situated at the beginning of respiratory as well as the digestive tract. Tonsils, with adenoids, form body’s first line of defence as part of the immune system. Tonsils literally act as watchmen of our body.They actually ‘sample’ any foreign material (bacteria, viruses and any other potentially harmful substance) that enter the body through either mouth or nose. When they encounter several of such obnoxious agents, they catch the microorganisms and prevent their entry in the body and thus prevent infection.In the process they get enlarged themselves.Literally! Tonsils produce antibodies which help us in fighting infection.
At times tonsils get enlarged, infected or inflamed (tonsillitis). At such times they turn a liability than an asset and may even cause repeated bacterial infections. It produces symptoms such as throat pain, redness, hoarseness of voice, pain in the ears, difficulty in swallowing and fever. Most importantly a swelling may appear on either side of the neck just below the lower jaw bone.
Just enlarged tonsils (without infection) need no treatment.
- Bed rest
- Adequate water warm water intake is preferred
- Salt water gargle
- At times, antibiotics may be required to tackle the infection
When should one consider surgical removal of tonsils?
Surgery is advised in the following cases
- Huge kissing tonsils (touching each other in midline) that cause difficulty in swallowing
- More than 4 episodes a year that require antibiotics
Dr Shobha Ahuja, MBBS; FCGP, in family practice for over 30 years; is an ardent sports person; very active in inner wheel club; have presented papers at several conferences and writes regularly for consumers.