Peritonsillar abscess – A peritonsillar abscess is an area of ​​pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils.

An abscess can be very painful and make it difficult to open the mouth.

This condition can also cause swelling that can push the tonsils toward the uvula (the fleshy object that hangs down the back of the mouth).

The swelling can block the throat, making it difficult to swallow, speak, and sometimes even breathe.


Peritonsillar abscess is a complication of tonsillitis.

This disease is most often caused by a type of bacteria called Beta-hemolytic streptococci group A.

Peritonsillar abscess generally occurs in childhood before adolescence, adolescents, and young adults.

This condition is rare nowadays because of early treatment such as antibiotics which can be used to treat tonsillitis.


Symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Severe sore throat that is usually on one side
  • Ear pain on the side of the abscess
  • Difficulty opening the mouth, and pain when opening the mouth
  • Swallowing problems
  • Drooling or inability to swallow saliva
  • Swelling of the face or neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • muffled sound
  • Pain in the glands of the jaw and throat
  • Stiff neck.


Call your healthcare provider right away if you have tonsillitis and develop symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess.

Be alert and call your doctor immediately if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the chest
  • Continuous fever
  • Symptoms are getting worse.

Examination of the throat often shows swelling on one side and on the roof of the mouth.

The uvula at the back of the throat can be shifted away from the swelling.

The following tests may be performed for further diagnosis:

  • Aspiration of abscess using a needle
  • CT scan
  • Fiber optic endoscope to check whether the airway is blocked or not.


Infections can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.

If an abscess has developed, it needs to be drained with a needle or by cutting it open.

The patient will be given pain medication before this is done.

If the infection is very severe, the tonsils will be removed at the same time as the abscess is drained, but this is rare.

In this case, the patient will undergo general anesthesia.


Complications that can occur include:

  • Airway obstruction
  • Cellulitis of the jaw, neck, or chest
  • Endocarditis (rare)
  • Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Inflammation around the heart (pericarditis)
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis (infection in the blood).


Prompt treatment of tonsillitis, especially if it is caused by bacteria, can help prevent this condition.

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