Peritonsillar abscess is a collection of infected material in the area around the tonsils.
Quinsy; Abscess - peritonsillar
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Peritonsillar abscess is a complication of tonsillitis. It is most often caused by a type of bacteria called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.
Peritonsillar abscess is usually a condition of older children, adolescents, and young adults. It has become uncommon with the use of antibiotics to treat tonsillitis.
One or both tonsils become infected. The infection usually spreads behind the tonsil and can then spread down into the neck and chest. Swollen tissues can block the airway. This is a life-threatening medical emergency.
The abscess can break open (rupture) into the throat. The content of the abscess can then travel into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Symptoms of peritonsillar abscess include:
Fever and chills
Severe throat pain that is usually on one side
Difficulty opening the mouth, and pain with opening the mouth
If the infection is caught early, you will be given antibiotics. More likely, if an abscess has developed, it will need to be drained with a needle or by cutting it open. You will be given pain medicine before this is done.
Sometimes, at the same time the abscess is drained, the tonsils will be removed. In this case, you will be put to sleep with anesthesia.
Peritonsillar abscess usually goes away with treatment, although the infection may return in the future.
Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.