A Peritonsillar Abscess is a pus-filled cluster of cells and tissues that accrue in the rear segment of the throat in the vicinity of either one or both the tonsils. The tonsils are a pair of soft tissue masses situated at the back of the throat i.e. the pharynx. They are composed of tissues similar to lymph nodes, abounding in white blood cells and are covered by a pink mucous lining. These flexible structures are a part of the body’s immune system, with the white blood cells combatting pathogenic microbes and thus, halt the germs entering through the nose and mouth from invading the internal organs and tissues. Peritonsillar abscesses, also known as quinsy, arise due to tonsillitis, a condition involving inflammation of the tonsils, from widespread bacterial infection.

Also Read: Tonsillitis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Peritonsillar Abscess

Causes Of Peritonsillar Abscess:

The chief instigating factor of peritonsillar abscesses is the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, which induces other common ailments in the pharynx such as tonsillitis and strep throat. A deep pit with pus-filled masses known as an abscess develops when the bacterial infection permeates deep into the cells and tissues in the throat and tonsils.

This throat problem of peritonsillar abscess occurs very frequently during winter and spring seasons, when throat infections and tonsillitis are rather common, especially among children, teenagers and young adults.


The typical signs of peritonsillar abscess closely resemble those of strep throat and tonsillitis, but as the inflammation is more deeply seated in the pharyngeal tissues and creates painful blisters oozing pus, the indications tend to be more severe. These comprise:

  • Difficulty in swallowing food, drink and saliva
  • Intense pain while chewing food, along with being incapable of opening the mouth wide
  • Fever and chills
  • Rough and raspy voice, like in sore throat
  • Headaches, alongside swollen regions in the face and neck

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Once symptoms of strep throat, tonsillitis or peritonsillar abscess are noticed, it is vital to seek prompt medical treatment for the same, else it could result in grave health complications in the neck, throat and lungs. Untreated peritonsillar abscesses can lead to further infection, triggering pneumonia, blocked airways and even serious bacterial infection in the blood known as sepsis.


In most cases, a peritonsillar abscess can be confirmed by a thorough external examination, wherein the patient is asked to open their mouth wide and the doctor shines a light to inspect the back of the throat for pus-filled lumps. An apparatus known as a tongue depressor is also used, to carefully study the mouth and throat for any signs of swelling, infection, redness.

A sample of fluid from pus-filled lumps is also collected and analysed in the laboratory for the presence of Streptococcus bacterial specimens. To rule out the possibility of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia, epiglottitis or a blocked airway, the physician takes X-ray and ultrasound scans of the throat, mouth and neck regions.


Treatment for peritonsillar abscess initially involves prescription antibiotics, to combat the bacterial infection and lessen inflammation in the tonsils and back of the throat.

However, if this proves to be ineffective, then the medical professional removes the abscess with the pus-filled lumps, either by lancing it off with a scalpel or surgical procedures. This aids in healing the tonsils and tissues in the throat and alleviates pain and discomfort in the patient.