Peritonsillar Abscess

Peritonsillar Abscess

Lee este articulo

What Is a Peritonsillar Abscess?

A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. The abscess can be very painful and can make it difficult to open the mouth. It can also cause swelling that may push a person's tonsil toward the uvula (the dangling fleshy object at the back of the mouth). If this happens, it can become hard to swallow, speak, and maybe even breathe.

Peritonsillar Abscess

If you think you have an abscess in the back of your throat, you'll want to see a doctor. If a peritonsillar abscess isn't treated, it can lead to more serious health problems.

What Causes Peritonsillar Abscesses?

Peritonsillar abscesses are most often caused by the same type of bacteria that cause strep throat. Sometimes, other types of bacteria are involved.

Peritonsillar abscesses usually happen as a complication of tonsillitis. If the infection breaks out of a tonsil and gets into the space surrounding it, an abscess can form. Luckily, peritonsillar abscesses aren't that common these days because doctors use antibiotics to treat tonsillitis.

Tooth and gum disease can increase the chances of a peritonsillar abscess forming, as can smoking — more good reasons to brush your teeth and avoid cigarettes.

What Are the Signs Someone Has It?

Often, the first sign of a peritonsillar abscess is a sore throat. As the abscess develops, other symptoms will appear. The most common ones include:

A peritonsillar abscess that goes untreated for a long period of time can lead to serious complications —for example, the infection may extend into the jaw, neck, and chest, or even the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.

What Should You Do?

Call your doctor if you have a sore throat with a fever or any of the other problems that can be caused by a peritonsillar abscess. It's rare that a peritonsillar abscess will get in the way of your breathing, but if it does, you may need to go to the emergency room right away.

What Do Doctors Do?

The doctor will examine your mouth, throat, and neck. He or she also may take a throat culture and a blood test. On rare occasions, a doctor may order a CT scan or ultrasound.

The usual treatment for a peritonsillar abscess involves having a doctor drain the abscess. The doctor does this either by withdrawing the pus with a needle (called aspiration) or making a small cut in the abscess with a scalpel so the pus can drain out.

If this doesn't work, a patient may need to have his or her tonsils removed, which is done in a procedure called a tonsillectomy. This is especially true for people who have had tonsillitis a lot or who have had a peritonsillar abscess in the past.

If it's hard to eat or drink, patients may need IV (intravenous, which means given into a vein) fluids for hydration. A doctor also will prescribe painkillers and antibiotics. Whenever you take antibiotics, always finish the full course of the medicine as prescribed, even if you feel better after a few days.

People who are treated with aspiration or have a tonsillectomy may need to stay in the hospital. That way, doctors can keep an eye on them to make sure everything went as planned.

Can Peritonsillar Abscess Be Prevented?

You can take a few precautions to lower your risk of getting an abscess in your tonsils — like not smoking and making sure you keep your teeth and mouth clean.

But sometimes a peritonsillar abscess is beyond your control. If you suspect you have an abscess, call your doctor right away. The earlier a doctor diagnoses it, the less involved the treatment is likely to be.

Reviewed by: Scott A. Barron, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and

Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Periodontology The American Academy of Periodontology provides information for consumers and dental patients about gum disease and oral health.
OrganizationCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.
Web This site contains facts and information about how to quit smoking.
Related Articles
Smoking Smoking is on the decline, but some people are still lighting up. Why? The answer is addiction. Find out more in this article for teens.
What Causes Bad Breath? Bad breath, or halitosis, can be a major problem, especially when you're about to snuggle with your sweetie or whisper a joke to your friend. The good news is that bad breath often can be easily prevented.
Stop Smoking: Your Personal Plan This interactive feature helps you come up with a plan to stop smoking.
How Can I Quit Smoking? Nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States is related to tobacco. Are you ready to kick the habit?
Gum Disease Gum disease doesn't just happen to people your grandparents' age - it can happen to teens too. Get the details here.
Tonsils and Tonsillectomies Everybody's heard of tonsils, but not everyone knows what tonsils do in the body or why they may need to be removed. Find out here.
Strep Throat Strep throat is a common infection that usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. Find out how to recognize the signs of strep throat and what to expect if you have it.
Mouth and Teeth Did you know that your mouth is the first step in the body's digestive process? Or that the mouth and teeth are essential for speech? Learn about the many roles your mouth and teeth play.
Tonsillitis You wake up and your throat is swollen and you have a fever. Could it be tonsillitis? Find out what tonsillitis is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Taking Care of Your Teeth There's a lot more to taking care of your teeth than breath mints and mouth sprays. Read this article to learn the facts on flossing, how to give plaque the brush-off, and much more.
Developments Developments
Sign up for enewsletter
Get involved Get involved
Discover ways to support Akron Children's
Join the conversation Join the conversation
See what our patient families are saying