If left untreated or improperly cared for tonsillitis most likely will lead to complications. Tonsil swelling complications include sleep disturbances, abscess and sometimes complications affecting the kidneys and heart.

Sleep Apnea

The swelling of your tonsils can be substantial enough to block your airways that can lead to a sleeping problem called sleep apnea. A blocked airway often causes breathing difficulty. Besides this, sleep apnea can also cause you to breathe with your mouth, snore and suffer from other sleep disturbances.


An extremely bad tonsil inflammation can cause dehydration in a person. Tonsillitis results in swallowing difficulty and pain. The effect of these is the sufferer’s lessening of fluid intake leading eventually to dehydration.


One other complication of untreated tonsillitis is peritonsillar abscess. A peritonsillar abscess is an accumulation of pus between the tonsil and its surrounding soft tissues. This type of complication is the most common result of an untreated acute tonsil inflammation.  The abscess usually develops on one side of the throat causing a muffled voice, difficulty in opening the mouth, drooling, fever and very bad throat pain. The abscess is often treated with antibiotics and on occasions, the doctor may perform a minor operation to draw out the pus.

The abscess can also cause complication of its own. It can enter the chest, neck space and bloodstream and infect the blood (termed septicemia).  From the bloodstream the bacteria can then be conveyed to your joints, bones and lungs. The abscess can be readily treated with antibiotics. It can become deadly if undiagnosed.

Blood Vessel Infection

Rarely does the tonsil infection spread to other parts of the body but when it does the large vein located in your neck may be affected.  An infected large vein can cause you stiffness in the neck, pain, chills and high fever. The vein infection can be readily addressed with antibiotics as well as a small surgery to remove the infected veins and the pus.

Nephritis and Rheumatic Fever

Streptococcal  bacteria is a bacteria that can cause tonsillitis and a tonsillitis-related complication termed nephritis which is the inflammation of the kidneys. During the time when antibiotics were not used to control this condition, nephritis was a common experience, now however, this condition is rare.

The streptococcus pathogen can also cause heart problems and the most dangerous heart complication that it can cause is called rheumatic fever. This problem can damage the heart valves. It is a painful condition with symptoms like other heart problems, stiff joints and swelling.

Sinus and Ear Infections

Tonsil inflammation can result in the aggregation of pus in the middle ear causing it to become inflamed. This problem is termed otitis media. Also, when your tonsils are infected, the infection can go to sinuses causing sinus inflammation or sinusitis.

Emily Farish Acupuncture
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