Most people think we just have two tonsils, located on either side of the throat just behind the tongue. But this isn’t true. There are several pairs of tonsils of different sizes. Tonsils are small bundles of a special kind of tissue called “lymphoid”. Because of their location in the throat, they have a special job. They are the first line of defense against infections entering through the nose and mouth.
The largest pair near the palate is “the palatine” tonsils. High in the back of the throat are some smaller ones. These are called “the adenoids”. Other small tonsils are found just below the surface in the back of the tongue, and there are still others in the back of the pharynx. The tonsils are covered by the same smooth membrane that lines the mouth.
In the tonsils, this membrane dips down to form deep, thin pockets called “crypts”. The crypts trap germs and other harmful material from the mouth. The white blood cells surround the germs and help to destroy them. So fighting infection is the normal work of the tonsils.
Sometimes germs become active inside the tissue of the tonsils, and this may cause inflammation of the whole tonsil, This inflammation is called “tonsillitis”. One or usually both palatine tonsils become enlarged, red, and sore. The crypts are swollen and sometimes discharge thick pus. This is an acute tonsillitis.
It is an infection that happens suddenly and usually goes away in four or five days. Acute tonsillitis develops more often in childhood than in infancy or adulthood. It also happens more often during the winter months, when colds are common.
Are there different types of tonsillitis?
There are three types of tonsillitis: acute, chronic, and recurrent.