What causes peritonsillar abscess?
A peritonsillar abscess forms in the tissues of the throat next to one of the tonsils. An abscess is a collection of pus that forms near an area of infected skin or other soft tissue.
The abscess can cause pain, swelling, and, if severe, blockage of the throat. If the throat is blocked, swallowing, speaking, and even breathing become difficult.
A peritonsillar abscess is most often a complication of tonsillitis. The bacteria involved are similar to those that cause strep throat.
Streptococcal bacteria most commonly cause an infection in the soft tissue around the tonsils (usually just on one side). The tissue is then invaded by anaerobes (bacteria that can live without oxygen), which enter through nearby glands.
Other risk factors include
- Dental infection (such as the gum infections periodontitis and gingivitis)
- Chronic tonsillitis
- Infectious mononucleosis
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Stones or calcium deposits in the tonsils (tonsilloliths)
There is no reliable method for preventing a peritonsillar abscess other than limiting risks: Do not smoke, maintain good dental hygiene, and promptly treat oral infections.
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