Tonsils are two lumps of lymphoid tissues that are located in the back of your throat. They function as a part of your immune system and help in keeping the germs and other foreign particles away from entering your throat. If these are infected and inflamed due to viruses and bacteria, the condition is called tonsillitis.
If your tonsillitis is not responsive to the medication prescribed by your ENT doctor, make sure to visit and consult your doctor or healthcare provider to see if you need to undergo any surgical intervention.
What can happen if tonsillitis is left untreated?
You can suffer from acute tonsillitis and chronic tonsillitis. If you have acute tonsillitis, you can suffer from a sore throat, fever, foul breath, difficulty swallowing [dysphagia], and painful swallowing [odynophagia]. Usually, the symptoms of acute tonsillitis can resolve within 3-4 days but can last up to 2-3 weeks. In the case of chronic tonsillitis, you can suffer from halitosis, sleep-disordered breathing, chronic sore throat, snoring, mouth breathing, and persistent tender cervical nodes.
Depending on the severity of tonsillitis, your ENT doctor can prescribe a few medications and can suggest a few home remedies. However, if medications and home remedies are not effective in curing tonsillitis, a surgical intervention called tonsillectomy can be recommended by your ENT doctor. However, if you are not willing to get treated for your tonsillitis or untreated or incompletely treated tonsillitis can lead to some serious health concerns and potentially life-threatening complications such as:
- Acute oropharyngeal infections:
If tonsillitis is not treated, acute oropharyngeal infections can easily spread distally to the deep neck spaces and then into the mediastinum. It can even spread beyond the pharynx if you have symptoms of tonsillitis along with high fevers and shortness of breath.
- Peritonsillar cellulitis and abscess:
In cases of untreated tonsillitis, the inflammation can spread beyond the lymphoid tissues of the tonsils and involves oropharyngeal mucosa. In such cases, Peritonsillar cellulitis is developed. In other cases, pus can be formed or trapped between the tonsillar capsule and the lateral pharyngeal wall. This condition can be referred to as quinsy or peritonsillar abscess [PTA]. PTA can result in severe throat pain, foul breath, fever, difficulty opening the mouth [trismus], altered voice quality [the hot-potato voice], and drooling. However, the abscess can spread distally and become life-threatening.
- Scarlet fever:
If tonsillitis caused by group A streptococci bacteria is left untreated, it can lead to scarlet fever which is an infection of the throat. In any case, if you develop scarlet fever, you can suffer from symptoms such as a bright red rash that covers most of the body parts, high fever, and sore throat. It can be treated with proper antibiotic medications and lifestyle modifications.
- Permanent or temporary sleep apnea:
Leaving tonsillitis untreated can enlarge the tonsils. As a result of large tonsils, you can suffer from sleep apnea where normal breathing is interrupted or prevented during sleep. Tonsillitis can be a potential cause for either temporary or permanent sleep apnea. This can happen to both children and adults. Removing the infected and inflamed tonsils is the best and safest possible way to cure and prevent sleep apnea. If the treatment is delayed, sleep apnea can turn into chronic and serious health concerns.
- Rheumatic fever
Rheumatic fever can develop if tonsillitis is caused by group A streptococcus is not treated properly. However, it can take about 2-5 weeks to develop after the onset of scarlet fever or tonsillitis, or strep throat. Rheumatic fever can affect your joints and heart in case it is left untreated. One of the reasons to develop rheumatic fever is the untreated or incomplete treatment for tonsillitis. Keeping in mind, it is advised not to delay your tonsillitis treatment or surgical intervention, tonsillectomy.
- Septic arthritis
In case your tonsillitis is caused by a bacteria and left untreated, the bacteria can invade your joints and cause septic arthritis where your joints are inflamed, and you start to suffer from redness, heat, and pain in a single joint. Slowly, it can decrease the ability to move the joint. However, with proper antibiotic medication, tonsillitis can be cured and thus prevents the development of septic arthritis.
Delaying or avoiding either medical treatments or surgical interventions for your tonsillitis, you can suffer from any of the above mentioned serious health concerns. So try not to avoid or delay your tonsillitis treatment.
Tonsillitis can be cured with a surgical procedure called a tonsillectomy. If you have acute tonsillitis which can be cured with a few home remedies and antibacterial drugs, there is no need for surgical intervention. However, in case of chronic tonsillitis, ENT doctors can recommend undergoing tonsillectomy. If tonsillitis is left untreated it can lead to serious complications. To avoid those, all the ENT doctors in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, and several other cities suggest you not to delay the tonsillitis treatment or surgical intervention.