Understanding recurrent tonsillitis and its complications

Written by: Mr Imad Amer
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Recurrent tonsillitis is a condition characterised by multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis, leading to frequent sore throats and discomfort.


Leading consultant ENT surgeon Mr Imad Amer aims to provide simple and informative answers to key questions about recurrent tonsillitis and its potential complications for adults who may be experiencing symptoms or seeking information about this condition.

Young girl who has recurrent tonsillitis

What is recurrent tonsillitis?

Recurrent tonsillitis refers to the repeated occurrence of acute tonsillitis, which is inflammation and infection of the tonsils. Tonsils are small glands located at the back of the throat that play a role in the body's immune system by helping to fight off infections. Recurrent tonsillitis is defined as experiencing multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis within a year, often causing significant discomfort and interference with daily activities.



What causes recurrent tonsillitis?

Recurrent tonsillitis is commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections, with the most frequent culprit being streptococcus bacteria. Factors that may contribute to the development of recurrent tonsillitis include:

Weakened immune system

Individuals with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to recurrent tonsillitis.

Close contact

Being in close proximity to individuals with respiratory infections can increase the risk of contracting tonsillitis.

Environmental factors

Exposure to allergens or irritants in the environment may also contribute to recurrent tonsillitis.



What are the symptoms of recurrent tonsillitis?

Symptoms of recurrent tonsillitis may include:

  • Frequent sore throat: Persistent or recurrent sore throat, often accompanied by pain or discomfort when swallowing.
  • Swollen tonsils: Enlarged and inflamed tonsils, sometimes with visible white patches or pus.
  • Fever: Elevated body temperature, chills, and general feelings of malaise.
  • Bad breath: Foul-smelling breath due to bacterial build up in the mouth and throat.



What are the complications of recurrent tonsillitis?

Complications of recurrent tonsillitis may include:

Abscess formation

Pus-filled pockets (peritonsillar abscess) may develop around the tonsils, causing severe pain, difficulty swallowing, and fever.

Chronic tonsillitis

Recurrent tonsillitis can lead to chronic inflammation of the tonsils, resulting in persistent sore throat and discomfort.

Tonsil stones and halitosis

Recurrent tonsillitis can lead to formation of tonsil stones (tonsilloliths) and bad breath (halitosis). Although other conditions can contribute to halitosis as well.

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Enlarged tonsils can obstruct the airway during sleep, leading to breathing difficulties and disrupted sleep patterns.

Spread of infection

Untreated or inadequately treated recurrent tonsillitis can lead to the spread of infection to other parts of the body, such as the ears, sinuses, or lungs.



How is recurrent tonsillitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of recurrent tonsillitis is based on:

  • Medical history: Discussion of symptoms, frequency, and duration of sore throats, as well as any previous treatments.
  • Physical examination: Examination of the throat, tonsils, and neck to assess for signs of inflammation, swelling, or infection.
  • Throat swab: A swab of the throat may be taken to test for bacterial or viral infections, particularly in cases of suspected strep throat.



What are the treatment options for recurrent tonsillitis?

Treatment options for recurrent tonsillitis may include:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial tonsillitis to clear the infection and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Tonsillectomy: Surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be recommended for individuals with severe or recurrent tonsillitis that significantly impacts quality of life.

Recurrent tonsillitis can be a challenging condition that causes frequent discomfort and interference with daily activities. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential complications of recurrent tonsillitis is crucial for appropriate management and treatment.


If you experience recurrent sore throats or suspect you may have recurrent tonsillitis, consult with a consultant ENT surgeon for evaluation and personalised treatment options. Early intervention and proper management of recurrent tonsillitis can help alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and improve overall throat health and well-being. Don't hesitate to seek professional medical advice if you have concerns about recurrent tonsillitis.




Concerned about recurrent tonsillitis? Arrange a consultation with Mr Amer via his Top Doctors profile.

By Mr Imad Amer
Otolaryngology / ENT

Mr Imad Amer is a consultant ear, nose and throat (ENT) / head and neck surgeon based in Hastings - East Sussex. He specialises in blocked nose, ear infection and thyroid gland surgery, alongside salivary gland surgery, sinusitis, and tonsillitis. Mr Amer's NHS base is East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, working at the Conquest and Eastbourne Hospitals.

He obtained his primary medical qualification from Damascus University - Faculty of Medicine, Syria, and completed his specialist ENT training in London and Brighton. His training included head and neck surgery, thyroid and parathyroid surgery at Bart’s and the Royal London, St Mary’s and Hammersmith, as well as Charing Cross and University Sussex hospitals.

Mr Amer listens attentively to his patients' concerns and involves them in decision-making regarding their treatment. He collaborates closely with consultant colleagues at the University Sussex Hospitals' head & neck and thyroid/parathyroid multidisciplinary team (MDT), offering initial diagnostic assessments and surgical interventions. Patients can access a range of clinic-based procedures including ear microsuction, nasal cautery, nasal endoscopy, throat endoscopy, and hearing tests at Sussex Premier Health Hastings.

Additionally, Mr Amer conducts surgical procedures in the operating theatre using the excellent facilities available at Sussex Premier Health. Mr Imad Amer's dedication to excellence extends to his research achievements and professional affiliations. He has contributed significantly to ENT literature and is an active member of professional organisations dedicated to advancing the field of ear, nose and throat surgery.

Mr Amer is a member of ENT-UK, the British Association of Endocrine & Thyroid Surgeons (BAETS) and the British Medical Association (BMA). He's also a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS).

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