The pharynx is the common entry pathway of our body, for respiration and digestion. The natural guards to protect our body from disease entry are tonsils. The tonsils are oval lymph glands situated on the sidewalls of the pharynx. There are two tonsils for a human, sitting at the back end of the throat on both sides and projecting out as masses. They drain lymphocytes containing lymph into the tonsilar lymph node situated behind and below the lower jaw. The tonsils gradually enlarge in size from birth and reach their maximum size in 6-8 years and atrophies in 12-14 years. Tonsils also tend to enlarge in size during puberty and shrink thereafter.
In this modern scientific era, we try to answer each question with scientific explanation. But nature never exposes itself with complete answers. Nature never puts anything as a waste nor does a thing uselessly. Till now, we know the functions of tonsils as follows:
- It monitors the quality of the air, food and water which enter our body
- It plays a major role in body immunity mechanism and antibody reaction most probably in childhood
- It is helpful in forming lymphocytes (white blood cells) which protect our body as a defence mechanism.
- It becomes as red swollen inflamed mass (danger light) indicating any infection entering our body
- It traps the germs that enter the body by its antibodies and drains it into the lymph node for elimination
- It is also supposed to kill bacteria that enter into the tonsil through the blood stream.
If we ignore the red light of tonsil, the infection might spread in the throat, mouth, sinuses and upper respiratory tract. If we delay, the infection spreads further to the lower respiratory tract (lungs), digestive tract and other parts of the body (joints, heart, etc.) With repeated attack of infection, the tonsils may get fibrosis and scarred and lose its protective function.
The inflammation of the tonsils is called tonsillitis. The infected tonsils become red and swollen, to work better to trap or stop the disease force – bacteria or virus. They also get coated (either partly or entirely) with yellow, grey, or white substance, depending upon the type of infection and pus formation. Tonsillitis begins with a sudden sore throat and painful swallowing. The tonsils infection is common in children and teenagers but rare in adults.
Types of tonsillitis:
Tonsillitis can be classified as acute and chronic.
- Acute tonsillitis is a sudden onset inflammation that lasts for about 4 to 6 days. It is an uncomplicated form which commonly affects children of ages 5-10.
- Chronic tonsillitis occurs when there is recurrent infection. They remain infected and do not respond to treatment. They are usually a complicated form which are seen in maltreated or untreated children and teenagers.
Further tonsillitis types are classified as
- Membranous – which is most common in children
- Follicular – having follicles in the outer layer which appears as yellow dots on the tonsil surface. It is common in young adults.
The most common cause for tonsillitis is
- Bacterial or viral infection – Bacteria, specifically beta-hemolytic streptococci, is the main offender. Virus can also cause tonsillitis. The source of infection may be food or water or droplet infection from coughing or mucous secretions of an infected person.
- It also occurs as an allergic reaction to allergens, for example pollens, cold things, food preservatives, drugs, mechanical injury, etc.
In patients with auto-immune disorders, who suffer from immunodeficiency, tonsillitis may occur due to multiple infections. For example HIV, psoriasis, SLE, etc.
Symptom – differ from patient to patient depending upon the size and involvement of sides (single or both)
- Red swollen tonsils – felt or visualised as a lump in throat
- Sore throat which induces constant hawking and choking
- Difficulty and pain during swallowing – due to obstruction. Sore throat is felt as tight constricted area, so there is delay in eating, which further produces aversion to food and weight loss.
- Difficulty in breathing – due to the blockage of air way by enlarged tonsil. This may lead to snoring, mouth breath and restlessness at night due to sleep apnea (large pauses between two breaths). Due to sleeplessness at night, there will be excessive tiredness in daytime.
- Poor growth and development due to air hunger and lack of appetite or aversion.
- Excess salivation and dribbling of saliva when mouth breath predominates
- Ear ache and bad breath (halitosis) due to infection and pus formation
- White spots or yellow or grey coating over the tonsils
- Painful or painless lymph node enlargement below the angle of lower jaw
- Constitutional disturbances like fever with chill and tiredness
- Recurrent or repeated attack of cold and cough.
- CSOM- chronic suppurative ear disorder
- Quinsy – peritonsilar abscess
- Headache with sinusitis
- Act as a septic focus which may cause septicaemia
- Obstruction causing choking
- Rheumatism and heart strain in case of infection with haemolytic streptococci bacteria.
Clinical examination – A thorough examination of the tonsil and pharynx has to be done for evaluating the tonsil enlargement and inflammation. The tongue has to be depressed for getting a better view. Usually, clinical examination reveals the red and swollen tonsil with coating or spots with lymph node enlargement behind the lower jaw and neck.
Culture and sensitivity test – Tonsillitis can also be diagnosed specifically by performing a strep test (throat culture). No growth in the culture reveals viral infection. In this case, it is better to avoid antibiotics. The growth in the culture indicates bacterial infection. Physicians often do sensitivity test to select the potent medicines.
Blood tests – leucocytes and ESR will be high
In suspected cases, biopsy has to be done to rule out diphtheria, etc.
1. Focus on infection
2. Relief of pain or symptoms
- General health
- Nutritious diet
- Well-ventilated room
- Warm saltwater gargling for soothing effect
- Plenty of liquids to avoid painful swallowing of solid food
- Acidic drinks like cold beverages
- Tin packed foods with preservatives
- Spicy and chilly foods
- Alcoholic drinks
- For acute infection – Anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, anti-septic
- For relief of pain- analgesics
- For Allergic conditions- Anti-histamine drugs
These methods of drugs are prescribed to manage the situation or condition. In course of time, the disease becomes resistant to antibiotics or any medicines. Also, stopping the medication half-way may cause the infection to come back with complications. Antibiotics will have no effect against viral tonsillitis which occurs commonly with common cold. So, patients suffer with viral tonsillitis without treatment.
As a last resort, to reduce recurrent infection in tonsils, they are removed. The procedure of removing tonsils from the throat is called a tonsillectomy. It simply frees the airway or swallowing obstruction due to swollen tonsils, but won’t guarantee the stoppage of the infection which recurs and spreads inward.
Before the age of 8, tonsils removal should be strictly avoided since it plays a main role in the immunity of the children and may provoke serious complications if removed. But, after that, if the condition is absolutely necessary, i.e. mass is huge in size and fibrosed, obstructing the passage of digestion or respiration and doesn’t respond to medicines, it is better to go in for surgery than treating for the sake of easing the deglutition and freeing respiration.
Tonsillitis is not a pure surgical complaint. It can be cured in 70-80 per cent of cases. In Allopathy itself there is lot of controversy in doing surgery and removing the tonsils. But as the disease becomes resistant to antibiotics and not knowing what else to do, they deviate to surgery.
Homeopathy follows Nature’s rule, so it never admits removal as a cure. It means healing as making healthy, not removing. If you are going to remove the tonsils, it is just like removing the guards who often get attacked by burglars while safeguarding us, which is not wise. If you are going to off or remove the red light, it won’t raise an alarm in future to warn you.
Regarding treatment, betterment is important, not the system of medicine. Treatment can be availed of from any system of medicine, in any way, which may ease and comfort the living without any future side-effects. Homeopathy is the finger-post on the cross-roads of healing which directs the way to safe and permanent cure. Homeopathy has no side-effects. It comforts modern living. Homeopathy deals more with patients than diseases. It never focuses on the causative factors of disease, viruses or bacteria, but focuses on the characteristic symptoms of disease i.e. in Homeopathy, medicines are not going to act against the disease or kill the bacteria directly, but our resistance is made to climb up giving no chance for recurrence due to re-infection of the same bacteria or virus.
The earlier you treat, the speedier and more complete the cure. In this natural way of healing, the immune power is increased against that disease, so that recurrences can surely be avoided. In Homeopathy, medicines are usually selected with the mode of onset and character of the disease, exciting cause, thirst, sweat, shivering, mental restlessness, characteristic symptoms of patient, appetite, sleep and stool habit. A well-selected remedy quickly supports the body mechanism and clears the complaints at the earliest.
Some of the common medicines used against tonsillitis are Aconite, Belladonna, Bryonia, Rhus tox, Pulsatilla, Pyrogen, Thuja, Lycopodium, Apis mel, calcarea flour, Hepar sulph, Kali bich, Silicea, Nux vom, etc. These Medicines should be taken under the advice and diagnosis of a qualified Homeopath.
S. Chidambaranathan, BHMS, MD (Homeo)
E. New Mahalipatti Road
Tel: +91-452-233-8833 | +91-984-319-1011
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(Disclaimer - The contents of this column are for informational purpose only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of healthcare professional for any health problem or medical condition.)