Abscess - peritonsillar
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Abscess - peritonsillar


Peritonsillar abscess is a collection of infected material in the area around the tonsils.

See also: Retropharyngeal abscess

Alternative Names

Quinsy; Abscess - peritonsillar


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 generally a disease of older children, adolescents, and young adults. It has become relatively uncommon since the use of antibiotics to treat tonsillitis.


One or both tonsils become infected. The infection may spread over the roof of the mouth (palate), and to the neck and chest, including the lungs. Swollen tissues may block the airway, which is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Symptoms of peritonsillar abscess include:

  • Sore throat (may be severe)
  • Tender glands of the jaw and throat
  • Facial swelling
  • Drooling
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Difficulty and pain with opening the mouth
  • Hoarseness (occasionally)

Exams and Tests

An examination of the throat and neck may reveal redness and swelling of one or both tonsils, throat, neck, and chest.

Tests may be done to figure out what type of bacteria is causing the infection. Aspiration of the abscess usually shows fluid containing pus.


If bacteria is causing the infection, antibiotics will be given. Pain killers may be prescribed, if needed.

The abscess will need to be drained. This requires surgery. Surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be considered.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Peritonsillar abscess usually goes away with treatment, although the infection may return in the future.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have had tonsillitis and symptoms of peritonsillar abscess develop.

Call your health care provider if symptoms of complications develop, including worsening of symptoms, persistent fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or pain in the chest.


Prompt and complete treatment of tonsillitis, especially bacterial tonsillitis, may help prevent formation of abscess.

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