How Tonsils Work in Your Body

How Tonsils Work in Your Body

You probably don’t think much about your tonsils, the soft pieces of tissues on either side of the back of your mouth, until you get a sore throat. But these specialized organs are part of your body’s immune system and serve as the first line of defense against viruses and unhealthy bacteria. 

While sore throats can sometimes signify infected tonsils, not all sore throats need additional medical attention or surgery — but it can be nearly impossible to know without an accurate diagnosis from an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. 

At Jacksonville ENT Surgery in Lake City and Jacksonville, Florida, our ENT providers, Charles Greene, MD, PhD, and Tara Condrey, PA-C, diagnose and manage many diseases of the throat, including issues that affect your tonsils. But even when your tonsils are infected, they don’t always require surgical removal. 

Years ago, doctors removed tonsils much more readily than they do today. To better understand why, we’ve curated this guide that explains what you need to know about the tonsils, how they work in your body, and when to seek treatment.  

What are tonsils and what do they do?

When most people talk about tonsils, they’re usually referring to the palatine tonsils, which are on both sides of the back of your throat. However, you actually have three pairs of tonsils:

These specialized organs are part of your lymphatic system and help protect your body against problematic particles and substances that you inhale or ingest, acting like goalkeepers for your lungs. They also filter away viruses and bacteria and produce antibodies and blood cells.  

What are the signs of infected tonsils?

Although the tonsils are in place to help protect you from infection, these organs can sometimes become infected themselves, causing tonsillitis. The most common sign of infected tonsils typically is a severe sore throat. Other symptoms of tonsillitis include:

In young children, symptoms may also include excessive drooling, loss of appetite, and muffled speech.  

When do tonsils require medical attention?

If you have a sore throat that isn’t getting better after a few days or keeps coming back, it’s time to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis. If your Jacksonville ENT Surgery provider determines your tonsils are infected, they create a personalized treatment plan to address the underlying problem. 

Tonsillitis is usually caused by a virus, similar to the common cold or flu. In this case, treatment usually involves help managing your symptoms, getting plenty of rest, and drinking lots of fluids.

When tonsillitis is caused by bacteria, the treatment protocol may differ. In this case, your Jacksonville ENT Surgery provider may prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and clear up your infection faster. 

Some people also develop tonsil stones, which happen if debris gets caught in your tonsils. Your white blood cells attack the debris and create the stones, which can typically be removed by brushing or using water to flush out the stones. 

Surgery to remove your tonsils, called a tonsillectomy, is usually reserved for people who have recurring cases of tonsillitis or if their tonsils are causing them other problems that affect their health, such as sleep apnea.

At Jacksonville ENT Surgery, our team uses coblation-assisted tonsillectomy to remove tonsils when medically necessary. This type of surgery is more gentle than traditional tonsillectomy surgery so you recover faster and with less pain.   

For more information about how tonsils work in your body or for help with a sore throat or infected tonsils, contact the throat specialists at Jacksonville ENT Surgery in Lake City, Florida, or one of our three Jacksonville offices. You can also schedule an appointment using our online booking tool. 

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