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The tonsils are found at the back of the throat and are part of the lymphoid tissues (glands in your neck) that help protect your body from infection by germs that are breathed or swallowed. If the tonsils become inflamed (tonsillitis), they may need to be removed (tonsillectomy).
The tonsils are small glands which are located at the back of your throat, one on either side, and are part of your immune system.
As we mature from childhood, tonsils become less important in fighting off bacteria and viruses, however they can become inflamed if you have an infection. This condition is called tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis is usually caused by viral infections such as rhinoviruses (which cause the common cold), influenza or parainfluenza (which causes croup and laryngitis), enteroviruses (which cause hand, foot and mouth diseases), adenovirus (which causes diarrhoea), rubeola virus (which causes measles) or, rarely, the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes glandular fever).
Tonsillitis can also be caused by bacteria; usually group ‘A’ streptococcus bacteria.
Tonsillitis isn't contagious, but the viral infections that cause it are. These include those that cause colds and flu, which are spread by coming into close contact with someone who's already infected.
The main tonsillitis symptom is a sore throat. Tonsillitis causes your tonsils to also be red and swollen and your throat will probably be very painful, making it difficult to swallow. Sometimes the tonsils will have white, pus-filled spots on them.
Other common tonsillitis symptoms include a fever, coughing, tiredness, earache or headache and bad breath. You may also have inflamed tonsils or swollen tonsils and painful glands in your neck, and you may lose your voice.
Your GP will usually be able to diagnose tonsillitis after a discussion about your symptoms and by looking at your throat and tonsils to see if you need to undergo tonsil removal.
A tonsillectomy is an operation to remove the tonsils and, as a tonsillitis treatment, it provides long-term relief from repeated bouts of tonsillitis and tonsil pain.
Removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) is normally only recommended if they cause significant problems, such as difficulty breathing or swallowing or if you suffer from severe or repeated episodes of tonsillitis.
A tonsillectomy is carried out under general anaesthetic so you’ll be asleep during the operation. Sometimes it can be carried out as day surgery, when you can return home on the same day; however an overnight stay in hospital is usually required.
The tonsils are removed by carefully cutting or peeling them away from the surrounding tissues. The operation is carried out through your mouth, so no external incisions are required. The procedure, which takes around half an hour, can be performed using a number of different methods:
Each of these methods offers a very similar outcome in terms of patient safety, recovery and long-term results.
For details of the cost of private treatment for a tonsillectomy, view the ENT section of our pricing page or contact our Private Patient Team on 01580 363158.