Side Effects of Untreated Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is a condition where the tonsils, clumps of fleshy tissue located on each side in the back of the throat, become infected by a virus or bacteria. Viral tonsillitis typically subsides with no particular treatment; nevertheless, bacterial tonsillitis might require the administration of antibiotics in order for the infection to go away. Left untreated, tonsillitis can lead to a range of complications.

Most Dangerous Side Effects of Untreated Tonsillitis

People who experience chronic tonsillitis might start to experience obstructive sleep apnea. This happens when the airway swells and prevents an individual from sleeping well. It’s also possible the infection will aggravate and spread to other areas of the body.

This is called tonsillar cellulitis. The infection can also cause a person to establish an accumulation of pus behind the tonsils, which is referred to as peritonsilar abscess. This can need drainage and more surgery.

If a person does not take a complete course of antibiotics or the antibiotics do not exterminate the bacteria, it’s possible a person could establish complications. These include rheumatic fever and poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis.

Sleep Apnea

Tonsillitis causes the tonsils to become swollen. When left untreated, this swelling can cause an airway obstruction and interfere with normal breathing. This can cause sleep apnea, a condition where breathing periodically stops or becomes extremely shallow during sleep.

Patients who deal with sleep apnea can have 5 to 30 stops in their breathing during a single night’s sleep, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Sleep apnea interrupts sleep, leading to daytime sleepiness.


When the tonsils are infected they produce pus, which is a thick fluid consisting of white blood cells, cell debris and dead cells. The pus can become caught in the area between the soft tissues of the tonsils and lead to an abscess. The pus in the abscess may leak into the blood stream, causing further complications.

An abscess may require aspiration or drain. Since a few of the spaces are tough to physically reach, draining pipes the abscess might show tough.

Acute Glomerulonephritis

In some unusual cases, tonsillitis caused by stress of streptococcus bacteria can lead to kidney inflammation, a condition known as severe glomerulonephritis (AGN). The glomeruli are the small filtering screens in the kidneys accountable for eliminating waste products from the blood. When the bacteria infecting the tonsils enter into the bloodstream, the bacteria can find its method to the glomeruli. The body’s body immune system responds by setting off inflammation, which can cause scar tissue to form. The scar tissue interferes with the glomeruli’s ability to efficiently filter the blood, leading to AGN.

long term tonsillitis

Long term side effects of tonsillitis

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever can develop, especially in children, after an infection by the bacteria Streptococcus strain A. Rheumatic fever is the result of a delayed body immune system reaction to the bacteria. It causes inflammation of the joints, rash, fever, weight loss, tiredness and stomach discomforts.

Treatment of Rheumatic fever includes the administration of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria, anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the joint inflammation, and bed rest. Severe cases may need hospitalization. Since rheumatic fever can cause inflammation in the valves of the heart, diagnosis and treatment are crucial.

Other/Minor Side Effects of Tonsillitis

Sore Throat

If you develop tonsillitis, the most common side effect is a sore throat. An infection of the tonsils may cause severe irritation and inflammation. If this occurs, the tissues of the tonsils might swell, which can make swallowing or eating food uncomfortable. The Better Health Channel site explains that specific children with tonsillitis might suffer stomach pain rather than a sore throat.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

The lymph nodes are a vital component of the lymphatic system within the body, which helps safeguard the body against infection. Tonsillitis might cause the lymph nodes within the neck to become infected, which may lead the nodes to become irritated or inflamed. You might experience painful sensitivity within your neck as a result of swollen lymph nodes.

White or Yellow Throat Patches

Tonsillitis can cause the tissues of the tonsils to accumulate pus, which may appear as white or yellow patches of skin at the back of the mouth. These patches might cause additional symptoms such as swelling, inflammation or inflammation of the tonsils. Such symptoms might interfere with eating or drinking particular foods or fluids.

Bad Breath

If you develop tonsillitis, the infection might cause you to have bad breath. Bacteria can produce a bad odor as they spread through the tonsil tissues.

Last modified: February 20, 2017


The Author

Reyus Mammadli

As a healthy lifestyle advisor I try to guide individuals in becoming more aware of living well and healthy through a series of proactive and preventive measures, disease prevention steps, recovery after illness or medical procedures.

Education: Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.

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