Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body's defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the pharynx Pharynx The pharynx is a component of the digestive system that lies posterior to the nasal cavity, oral cavity, and larynx. The pharynx can be divided into the oropharynx, nasopharynx, and laryngopharynx. Pharyngeal muscles play an integral role in vital processes such as breathing, swallowing, and speaking. Pharynx or pharyngeal tonsils, and therefore is also called pharyngitis Pharyngitis Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the back of the throat (pharynx). Pharyngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. It typically results in a sore throat and fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, headache, and hoarseness. Pharyngitis. An infectious etiology in the setting of tonsillitis is referred to as infectious pharyngitis Pharyngitis Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the back of the throat (pharynx). Pharyngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. It typically results in a sore throat and fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, headache, and hoarseness. Pharyngitis, which is caused by viruses (most common), bacteria Bacteria Bacteria are prokaryotic single-celled microorganisms that are metabolically active and divide by binary fission. Some of these organisms play a significant role in the pathogenesis of diseases. Bacteriology: Overview, or fungi Fungi Fungi belong to the eukaryote domain and, like plants, have cell walls and vacuoles, exhibit cytoplasmic streaming, and are immobile. Almost all fungi, however, have cell walls composed of chitin and not cellulose. Fungi do not carry out photosynthesis but obtain their substrates for metabolism as saprophytes (obtain their food from dead matter). Mycosis is an infection caused by fungi. Mycology: Overview. Among the bacteria Bacteria Bacteria are prokaryotic single-celled microorganisms that are metabolically active and divide by binary fission. Some of these organisms play a significant role in the pathogenesis of diseases. Bacteriology: Overview, group A hemolytic Streptococcus is the most frequent etiology. Diagnosis is based on history, risk factors, and clinical findings, with tests done, if indicated, by initial evaluation. Testing for group A Streptococcus (GAS) infection in the setting of tonsillitis is essential, as this infection can lead to rheumatic fever Rheumatic fever Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is an autoimmune inflammatory process that usually follows Streptococcal pharyngitis. Acute rheumatic fever usually occurs 2-4 weeks after an untreated infection and affects the heart, skin, joints, and nervous system. Rheumatic Fever and glomerulonephritis in children and adolescents. Antibiotic treatment is recommended in a confirmed GAS infection for this population. For other etiologies, management depends on the causative organism and the treatment available.

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Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

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Epidemiology and Etiology

Epidemiology

  • Viral tonsillitis: children < 5 years and young adults
  • Streptococcal tonsillitis
    • Children aged 5–15 years (not seen in children < 3 years of age)
    • In adults: often before the age of 40 years
    • More frequent in winter and spring

Etiology

  • Viral (most common): 
    • Epstein-Barr virus Epstein-Barr Virus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a linear, double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the Herpesviridae family. This highly prevalent virus is mostly transmitted through contact with oropharyngeal secretions from an infected individual. The virus can infect epithelial cells and B lymphocytes, where it can undergo lytic replication or latency. Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): causes 90% of infectious mononucleosis Mononucleosis Infectious mononucleosis (IM), also known as "the kissing disease," is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Its common name is derived from its main method of transmission: the spread of infected saliva via kissing. Clinical manifestations of IM include fever, tonsillar pharyngitis, and lymphadenopathy. Mononucleosis
    • Adenovirus Adenovirus Adenovirus (member of the family Adenoviridae) is a nonenveloped, double-stranded DNA virus. Adenovirus is transmitted in a variety of ways, and it can have various presentations based on the site of entry. Presentation can include febrile pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, acute respiratory disease, atypical pneumonia, and gastroenteritis. Adenovirus
    • Coxsackie
    • Cytomegalovirus Cytomegalovirus CMV is a ubiquitous double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the Herpesviridae family. CMV infections can be transmitted in bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, semen, and breast milk. The initial infection is usually asymptomatic in the immunocompetent host, or it can present with symptoms of mononucleosis. Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
    • Influenza Influenza Influenza viruses are members of the Orthomyxoviridae family and the causative organisms of influenza, a highly contagious febrile respiratory disease. There are 3 primary influenza viruses (A, B, and C) and various subtypes, which are classified based on their virulent surface antigens, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). Influenza typically presents with a fever, myalgia, headache, and symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. Influenza Viruses/Influenza A and B
    • Parainfluenza viruses
    • Respiratory syncytial virus Respiratory Syncytial Virus Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an enveloped, single-stranded, linear, negative-sense RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae and the genus Orthopneumovirus. Two subtypes (A and B) are present in outbreaks, but type A causes more severe disease. Respiratory syncytial virus causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. Respiratory Syncytial Virus
    • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus Coronavirus Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that contain positive-sense, single-stranded RNA. Coronavirus derives its name from "κορώνη korṓnē" in Greek, which translates as "crown," after the small club-shaped proteins visible as a ring around the viral envelope in electron micrographs. Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Bacterial:
    • Group A Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus (GAS): most common bacterial cause
    • Mycoplasma Mycoplasma Mycoplasma is a species of pleomorphic bacteria that lack a cell wall, which makes them difficult to target with conventional antibiotics and causes them to not gram stain well. Mycoplasma bacteria commonly target the respiratory and urogenital epithelium. Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae), the causative agent of atypical or "walking" pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumonia Pneumonia Pneumonia or pulmonary inflammation is an acute or chronic inflammation of lung tissue. Causes include infection with bacteria, viruses, or fungi. In more rare cases, pneumonia can also be caused through toxic triggers through inhalation of toxic substances, immunological processes, or in the course of radiotherapy. Pneumonia
    • Corynebacterium Corynebacterium Corynebacteria are gram-positive, club-shaped bacilli. Corynebacteria are commonly isolated on tellurite or Loeffler's media and have characteristic metachromatic granules. The major pathogenic species is Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which causes a severe respiratory infection called diphtheria. Corynebacterium diphtheria Diphtheria Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae that most often results in respiratory disease with membranous inflammation of the pharynx, sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and weakness. The hallmark sign is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of the throat. Diphtheria
    • Neisseria Neisseria Neisseria is a genus of bacteria commonly present on mucosal surfaces. Several species exist, but only 2 are pathogenic to humans: N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis. Neisseria species are non-motile, gram-negative diplococci most commonly isolated on modified Thayer-Martin (MTM) agar. Neisseria gonorrhoeae
    • Fusobacterium 
  • Fungal: Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis (seen in denture wearers, asthma Asthma Asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory condition characterized by bronchial hyperresponsiveness and airflow obstruction. The disease is believed to result from the complex interaction of host and environmental factors that increase disease predisposition, with inflammation causing symptoms and structural changes. Patients typically present with wheezing, cough, and dyspnea. Asthma patients using corticosteroid inhalers, immunocompromised patients)

Clinical Presentation

Viral infection

  • Mild tonsillar exudates
  • Conjunctivitis Conjunctivitis Conjunctivitis is a common inflammation of the bulbar and/or palpebral conjunctiva. It can be classified into infectious (mostly viral) and noninfectious conjunctivitis, which includes allergic causes. Patients commonly present with red eyes, increased tearing, burning, foreign body sensation, and photophobia. Conjunctivitis
  • Cough (upper respiratory tract infection)
  • Rhinorrhea
  • Infectious mononucleosis Mononucleosis Infectious mononucleosis (IM), also known as "the kissing disease," is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Its common name is derived from its main method of transmission: the spread of infected saliva via kissing. Clinical manifestations of IM include fever, tonsillar pharyngitis, and lymphadenopathy. Mononucleosis: fatigue, palpable spleen Spleen The spleen is the largest lymphoid organ in the body, located in the LUQ of the abdomen, superior to the left kidney and posterior to the stomach at the level of the 9th-11th ribs just below the diaphragm. The spleen is highly vascular and acts as an important blood filter, cleansing the blood of pathogens and damaged erythrocytes. Spleen/ splenomegaly Splenomegaly Splenomegaly is pathologic enlargement of the spleen that is attributable to numerous causes, including infections, hemoglobinopathies, infiltrative processes, and outflow obstruction of the portal vein. Splenomegaly, or axillary adenopathy

Bacterial infection

  • GAS tonsillitis
    • Febrile (> 38°C (100.4°F))
    • Sore throat (may be severe), malaise
    • Pharyngotonsillar erythema and exudate
    • Tender and swollen anterior cervical adenopathy
    • Palatal petechiae
    • Strawberry tongue Tongue The tongue, on the other hand, is a complex muscular structure that permits tasting and facilitates the process of mastication and communication. The blood supply of the tongue originates from the external carotid artery, and the innervation is through cranial nerves. Oral Cavity: Lips and Tongue
    • Scarlatiniform rash
  • C. diphtheria Diphtheria Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae that most often results in respiratory disease with membranous inflammation of the pharynx, sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and weakness. The hallmark sign is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of the throat. Diphtheria tonsillitis: 
    • Presents with sore throat and fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever 
    • Commonly seen in unvaccinated individuals 
    • Patient with a gray tonsillar pseudomembrane (hallmark of the disease)
  • N. gonorrhea Gonorrhea Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the gram-negative bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae). Gonorrhea may be asymptomatic but commonly manifests as cervicitis or urethritis with less common presentations such as proctitis, conjunctivitis, or pharyngitis. Gonorrhea tonsillitis
    • Sore throat and fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever seen in sexually active people
    • Along with a sore throat, it is common to have symptoms related to genital tract infection.

Fungal infection

  • Thrush (oropharyngeal candidiasis Candidiasis Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis): white plaques in the oropharynx
  • Many patients are asymptomatic; some with cottony feeling in the mouth and oral pain Pain Pain has accompanied humans since they first existed, first lamented as the curse of existence and later understood as an adaptive mechanism that ensures survival. Pain is the most common symptomatic complaint and the main reason why people seek medical care. Physiology of Pain when eating
Pseudomembranous candidiasis

Pseudomembranous candidiasis Candidiasis Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis patient with oropharyngeal candidiasis Candidiasis Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis infection
In these images, the infection is shown to affect the palate Palate The palate is the structure that forms the roof of the mouth and floor of the nasal cavity. This structure is divided into soft and hard palates. Oral Cavity: Palate.

Image: “PMC2903493_1742-6405-7-19-2” by Taiwo OO, Hassan Z. License: CC BY 2.0

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is clinical, as it is based on history and examination findings.

Initial assessment

  • Age of the patient
  • Accompanying symptoms: Common viral illnesses have other symptoms, such as cough, conjunctivitis, and rhinorrhea.
  • Risk factors (school exposure, immunocompromised state, vaccination Vaccination Vaccination is the administration of a substance to induce the immune system to develop protection against a disease. Unlike passive immunization, which involves the administration of pre-performed antibodies, active immunization constitutes the administration of a vaccine to stimulate the body to produce its own antibodies. Vaccination status, sexual and illicit drug history, season)

Tests

Group A Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus infection:

  • Tests for GAS:
    • Rapid streptococcal antigen test or rapid antigen detection test (RADT): preferred for initial testing
    • Throat culture
    • Molecular assays
  • Use of Centor criteria in GAS tonsillitis:
    • 4 findings given 1 point each
    • Modified to include patient age
    • The likelihood of GAS rises as the total points increase.
    • The features of Centor criteria:
      • Absence of Cough
      • Exudate
      • Cervical Nodes
      • Temperature ( fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever)
      • Young OR old modifier: age 3–14 years: + 1, age 15–44 years: 0, age ≥ 45 years: – 1
    • Scoring: 
      • < 2 unlikely GAS tonsillitis
      •  2–3: test for GAS
      • > 3: test for GAS; in rare cases, empiric treatment if testing is unavailable
  • Risk assessment and clinical judgment for testing still recommended as:
    • Streptococcal infection presents similarly to other etiologies.
    • Examination findings alone can lead to overtreatment with antibiotics.
  • In adults: 
    • Positive RADT: treatment is given
    • Negative RADT: no antibiotics; generally, culture is not needed (low incidence of complications such as rheumatic fever Rheumatic fever Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is an autoimmune inflammatory process that usually follows Streptococcal pharyngitis. Acute rheumatic fever usually occurs 2-4 weeks after an untreated infection and affects the heart, skin, joints, and nervous system. Rheumatic Fever)
  • In children and adolescents:
    • Rule out viral symptoms.
    • Initial test with RADT
    • If RADT is negative, follow-up throat culture is recommended (as RADT can miss up to 30%). 
    • If RADT is positive: Treat the infection.
    • Important to determine GAS infection as age group is at risk for rheumatic fever Rheumatic fever Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is an autoimmune inflammatory process that usually follows Streptococcal pharyngitis. Acute rheumatic fever usually occurs 2-4 weeks after an untreated infection and affects the heart, skin, joints, and nervous system. Rheumatic Fever, glomerulonephritis, and suppurative complications

Work-up for other etiologies:

  • Infectious mononucleosis Mononucleosis Infectious mononucleosis (IM), also known as "the kissing disease," is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Its common name is derived from its main method of transmission: the spread of infected saliva via kissing. Clinical manifestations of IM include fever, tonsillar pharyngitis, and lymphadenopathy. Mononucleosis:
    • Monospot (heterophile antibody test): positive in infection due to EBV
    • Complete blood count would show lymphocytosis Lymphocytosis WBCs develop from stem cells in the bone marrow and are called leukocytes when circulating in the bloodstream. Lymphocytes are 1 of the 5 subclasses of WBCs. Lymphocytosis is an increase in the number or proportion of the lymphocyte subclass of WBCs, often as a result of an immune response to infection (known as reactive lymphocytosis). Lymphocytosis.
  • If indicated by history and risk factors:
    • HIV test
    • Nucleic acid amplification test or culture for N. gonorrhea Gonorrhea Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the gram-negative bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae). Gonorrhea may be asymptomatic but commonly manifests as cervicitis or urethritis with less common presentations such as proctitis, conjunctivitis, or pharyngitis. Gonorrhea 
    • Potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation on oral lesion scrapings: budding yeasts +/- hyphae in candidal infection

Management

Ancillary treatment

  • Analgesics ( acetaminophen Acetaminophen Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter nonopioid analgesic and antipyretic medication and the most commonly used analgesic worldwide. Despite the widespread use of acetaminophen, its mechanism of action is not entirely understood. Acetaminophen) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Corticosteroids (in cases of severe swelling of tonsils)
  • Hydration and gargling with saltwater

Viral infection

  • Supportive management
  • Viral illness with specific treatment available:
    • Influenza Influenza Influenza viruses are members of the Orthomyxoviridae family and the causative organisms of influenza, a highly contagious febrile respiratory disease. There are 3 primary influenza viruses (A, B, and C) and various subtypes, which are classified based on their virulent surface antigens, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). Influenza typically presents with a fever, myalgia, headache, and symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. Influenza Viruses/Influenza (for specific indications): oseltamivir, zanamivir, baloxavir, peramivir
    • HIV: initiate antiretroviral therapy Antiretroviral therapy Antiretroviral therapy (ART) targets the replication cycle of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is classified based on the viral enzyme or mechanism that is inhibited. The goal of therapy is to suppress viral replication to reach the outcome of undetected viral load. Anti-HIV Drugs

Group A Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus infection

  • Penicillin V or amoxicillin; 1st-generation cephalosporin an alternative
  • Clindamycin/clarithromycin/azithromycin, if penicillin-allergic
  • Ampicillin should be avoided if mononucleosis Mononucleosis Infectious mononucleosis (IM), also known as "the kissing disease," is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Its common name is derived from its main method of transmission: the spread of infected saliva via kissing. Clinical manifestations of IM include fever, tonsillar pharyngitis, and lymphadenopathy. Mononucleosis is suspected (induces a generalized rash).
  • Prophylaxis (tonsillectomy) for recurrent streptococcal tonsillitis:
    • Indicated for patients age 1–18 years (Paradise criteria):
      • 3 episodes yearly for 3 or more years
      • 5 episodes yearly for 2 years
      • 7 episodes in 1 year
    •  Episodes of tonsillitis should have documentation of ≥ 1 of the following:  
      • Temperature 38.3°C (101°F)
      • Cervical adenopathy
      • Tonsillar exudate
      • Positive test for GAS

Other bacterial infections

  • Diphtheria: erythromycin or penicillin G/V 
  • Gonorrhea tonsillitis: ceftriaxone and azithromycin

Candidal infection (oropharyngeal thrush)

  • Topical agents: clotrimazole troche, miconazole buccal tablet, nystatin oral suspension
  • Systemic agents: fluconazole

Clinical Relevance

The following are the complications associated with bacterial tonsillitis/ pharyngitis Pharyngitis Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the back of the throat (pharynx). Pharyngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. It typically results in a sore throat and fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, headache, and hoarseness. Pharyngitis:

  • Acute otitis media Acute Otitis Media Acute otitis media is an infection in the middle ear characterized by mucosal inflammation and retention of fluid. The most common pathogens are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. The condition can present with fever, otalgia, and diminished hearing. Acute Otitis Media: a painful type of ear infection that occurs when the middle ear becomes inflamed and infected. This condition can occur from pharyngitis Pharyngitis Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the back of the throat (pharynx). Pharyngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. It typically results in a sore throat and fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, headache, and hoarseness. Pharyngitis via travel along the eustachian tube.
  • Retropharyngeal abscess Retropharyngeal abscess Retropharyngeal abscesses occur in the retropharyngeal space, which extends from the base of the skull to the posterior mediastinum. The abscesses occur due to extension of local infections, including upper respiratory infections or localized infections from trauma such as dental procedures. Retropharyngeal Abscess: a collection of pus inside the retropharyngeal space, extending from local infections or coming from trauma such as dental procedures. If present, it can spread rapidly, cause airway obstruction Airway obstruction Airway obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the airways that impedes airflow. An airway obstruction can be classified as upper, central, or lower depending on location. Lower airway obstruction (LAO) is usually a manifestation of chronic disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Airway Obstruction, and lead to death. Immediate diagnosis and treatment are essential.
  • Sepsis Sepsis Organ dysfunction resulting from a dysregulated systemic host response to infection separates sepsis from uncomplicated infection. The etiology is mainly bacterial and pneumonia is the most common known source. Patients commonly present with fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension, and/or altered mentation. Sepsis and Septic Shock/bacteremia: fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension, and/or altered mentation leading to systemic organ dysfunction. Sepsis Sepsis Organ dysfunction resulting from a dysregulated systemic host response to infection separates sepsis from uncomplicated infection. The etiology is mainly bacterial and pneumonia is the most common known source. Patients commonly present with fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension, and/or altered mentation. Sepsis and Septic Shock results from bacteria Bacteria Bacteria are prokaryotic single-celled microorganisms that are metabolically active and divide by binary fission. Some of these organisms play a significant role in the pathogenesis of diseases. Bacteriology: Overview entering the bloodstream from a previously localized infection.
  • Cervical adenitis: inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body's defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation and infection in the lymph nodes in the cervical chain along the neck. The condition can occur via translocation of bacteria Bacteria Bacteria are prokaryotic single-celled microorganisms that are metabolically active and divide by binary fission. Some of these organisms play a significant role in the pathogenesis of diseases. Bacteriology: Overview from the infected pharynx Pharynx The pharynx is a component of the digestive system that lies posterior to the nasal cavity, oral cavity, and larynx. The pharynx can be divided into the oropharynx, nasopharynx, and laryngopharynx. Pharyngeal muscles play an integral role in vital processes such as breathing, swallowing, and speaking. Pharynx.
  • Peritonsillar abscess Peritonsillar abscess A peritonsillar abscess (PTA), also called quinsy, is a collection of pus between the capsule of the palatine tonsil and the pharyngeal muscles. A PTA is usually a complication of acute tonsillitis, an infection caused by group A Streptococci. Patients often present with a sore throat, trismus, and a muffled voice. Peritonsillar Abscess: also called quinsy, a purulent collection between the capsule of the palatine tonsil and the pharyngeal muscles. The condition presents with fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, sore throat, and odynophagia, and, on examination, a bulging is seen around (mostly superior) the pharyngeal tonsils.
  • Scarlet fever Scarlet fever Scarlet fever is a clinical syndrome consisting of streptococcal pharyngitis accompanied by fever and a characteristic rash caused by pyrogenic exotoxins. Scarlet fever is a non-suppurative complication of streptococcal infection that is more commonly seen in children. Incidence peaks during the winter and spring in temperate climates. Scarlet Fever: fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, sore throat, strawberry tongue Tongue The tongue, on the other hand, is a complex muscular structure that permits tasting and facilitates the process of mastication and communication. The blood supply of the tongue originates from the external carotid artery, and the innervation is through cranial nerves. Oral Cavity: Lips and Tongue, and generalized sandpaper rash due to hypersensitivity reaction to exotoxin produced by GAS. Early recognition of GAS pharyngitis Pharyngitis Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the back of the throat (pharynx). Pharyngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. It typically results in a sore throat and fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, headache, and hoarseness. Pharyngitis and subsequent antibiotic treatment can prevent this complication.
  • Acute rheumatic fever Rheumatic fever Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is an autoimmune inflammatory process that usually follows Streptococcal pharyngitis. Acute rheumatic fever usually occurs 2-4 weeks after an untreated infection and affects the heart, skin, joints, and nervous system. Rheumatic Fever myocarditis Myocarditis Myocarditis is an inflammatory disease of the myocardium, which may occur alone or in association with a systemic process. There are numerous etiologies of myocarditis, but all lead to inflammation and myocyte injury, most often leading to signs and symptoms of heart failure. Myocarditis, valvulitis ( mitral regurgitation Mitral regurgitation Mitral regurgitation (MR) is the backflow of blood from the left ventricle (LV) to the left atrium (LA) during systole. Mitral regurgitation may be acute (myocardial infarction) or chronic (myxomatous degeneration). Acute and decompensated chronic MR can lead to pulmonary venous congestion, resulting in symptoms of dyspnea, orthopnea, and fatigue. Mitral Regurgitation), and valvular heart disease (mitral +/- aortic regurgitation Aortic regurgitation Aortic regurgitation (AR) is a cardiac condition characterized by the backflow of blood from the aorta to the left ventricle during diastole. Aortic regurgitation is associated with an abnormal aortic valve and/or aortic root stemming from multiple causes, commonly rheumatic heart disease as well as congenital and degenerative valvular disorders. Aortic Regurgitation/stenosis) due to antibody cross-reactivity from a GAS infection. Early recognition of GAS pharyngitis Pharyngitis Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the back of the throat (pharynx). Pharyngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. It typically results in a sore throat and fever. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, cough, headache, and hoarseness. Pharyngitis and subsequent antibiotic treatment can prevent this complication.
  • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis ( PSGN PSGN Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN) is a type of nephritis that is caused by a prior infection with group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus (GAS). The clinical presentation of PSGN can range from asymptomatic, microscopic hematuria to full-blown acute nephritic syndrome, which is characterized by red-to-brown urine, proteinuria, edema, and acute kidney injury. Poststreptococcal Glomerulonephritis): a type 3 hypersensitivity reaction that can occur 1–3 weeks following initial GAS infection. Clinical presentation includes microscopic/gross hematuria, edema Edema Edema is a condition in which excess serous fluid accumulates in the body cavity or interstitial space of connective tissues. Edema is a symptom observed in several medical conditions. It can be categorized into 2 types, namely, peripheral (in the extremities) and internal (in an organ or body cavity). Edema, and hypertension Hypertension Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common disease that manifests as elevated systemic arterial pressures. Hypertension is most often asymptomatic and is found incidentally as part of a routine physical examination or during triage for an unrelated medical encounter. Hypertension. Diagnosis is via elevated antibody titers to strep antigens and low C3 levels. 

The following conditions are differential diagnoses of tonsillitis:

  • Epiglottitis Epiglottitis Epiglottitis (or "supraglottitis") is an inflammation of the epiglottis and adjacent supraglottic structures. The majority of cases are caused by bacterial infection. Symptoms are rapid in onset and severe. Epiglottitis: also presents with fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, sore throat, and odynophagia; however, the presence of lymphadenopathy Lymphadenopathy Lymphadenopathy is lymph node enlargement (> 1 cm) and is benign and self-limited in most patients. Etiologies include malignancy, infection, and autoimmune disorders, as well as iatrogenic causes such as the use of certain medications. Generalized lymphadenopathy often indicates underlying systemic disease. Lymphadenopathy and exudate around the tonsils distinguishes tonsillitis from epiglottitis.
  • Croup Croup Croup, also known as laryngotracheobronchitis, is a disease most commonly caused by a viral infection that leads to severe inflammation of the upper airway. It usually presents in children < 5 years of age. Patients develop a hoarse, "seal-like" barking cough and inspiratory stridor. Croup: also called laryngotracheobronchitis Laryngotracheobronchitis Croup, also known as laryngotracheobronchitis, is a disease most commonly caused by a viral infection that leads to severe inflammation of the upper airway. It usually presents in children < 5 years of age. Patients develop a hoarse, "seal-like" barking cough and inspiratory stridor. Croup. Croup Croup Croup, also known as laryngotracheobronchitis, is a disease most commonly caused by a viral infection that leads to severe inflammation of the upper airway. It usually presents in children < 5 years of age. Patients develop a hoarse, "seal-like" barking cough and inspiratory stridor. Croup is caused by a viral infection or, rarely, by a bacterial infection that results in swelling inside the trachea Trachea The trachea is a tubular structure that forms part of the lower respiratory tract. The trachea is continuous superiorly with the larynx and inferiorly becomes the bronchial tree within the lungs. The trachea consists of a support frame of semicircular, or C-shaped, rings made out of hyaline cartilage and reinforced by collagenous connective tissue. Trachea. The infection interferes with normal breathing. Patients develop a characteristic barking cough and stridor, but can also have acute enlargement of the tonsils.
  • Lemierre’s syndrome: jugular vein suppurative thrombophlebitis, often caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum. Symptoms include high fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, unilateral neck swelling (which can be similar to lymphadenopathy Lymphadenopathy Lymphadenopathy is lymph node enlargement (> 1 cm) and is benign and self-limited in most patients. Etiologies include malignancy, infection, and autoimmune disorders, as well as iatrogenic causes such as the use of certain medications. Generalized lymphadenopathy often indicates underlying systemic disease. Lymphadenopathy), and pain Pain Pain has accompanied humans since they first existed, first lamented as the curse of existence and later understood as an adaptive mechanism that ensures survival. Pain is the most common symptomatic complaint and the main reason why people seek medical care. Physiology of Pain with respiratory symptoms. This condition affects healthy adolescents and adults.

References

  1. Ashurst, J., Edgerly-Gibb, L. (2020). Streptococcal Pharyngitis. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525997/
  2. Kalra, M., Higgins, K., Perez, E. (2016). Common Questions about Streptococcal Pharyngitis. Am Fam Physician 94(1), 24-31.
  3. Mitchell, R., Archer, S., Ishman, S., et al. (2019). Clinical Practice Guideline: Tonsillectomy in Children (Update). Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 160(1S), S1–S42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0194599818801757
  4. Shah, U., Meyers, A. (2020). Tonsillitis and Peritonsillar Abscess. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/871977-overview
  5. Wald, E., Edwards, M., Messner, A., Torchia, M. (2020). Group A streptococcal tonsillopharyngitis in children and adolescents: Clinical features and diagnosis. UpToDate. Retrieved from Dec 20, 2020, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/group-a-streptococcal-tonsillopharyngitis-in-children-and-adolescents-clinical-features-and-diagnosis

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