A peritonsillar abscess (say: pair-ee-TON-sill-er AB-sess) occurs when a sore filled with pus (a thick, whitish-yellow fluid) forms near one of your tonsils. The tonsils are the oval-shaped areas of pink tissue on each side at the back of your throat.
The symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess include:
Call your doctor right away if you have trouble breathing, swallowing, talking, or if you start to drool. These are symptoms of a more serious abscess and need immediate medical attention.
Peritonsillar abscesses are caused by an infection. Most are a complication of tonsillitis (an infection of the tonsils). But they can also be caused by mononucleosis (also called mono), or tooth and gum infections. People who smoke are more likely to get a peritonsillar abscess.
Your doctor will need to remove the pus from the abscess. Your doctor will numb the skin around the abscess. He or she will either take the pus out with a needle or make a small cut in the abscess so the pus can drain out. Surgery to remove your tonsils (called a tonsillectomy) is also an option. You will probably only need surgery if you have had many tonsil infections or abscesses before.
Your pain and symptoms should get better after the pus is drained. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to make sure the infection goes away completely. He or she may also give you medicine to help relieve the pain.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff