Conditions, Health & Wellness

White Spots on Tonsils: Should You Panic?

Every inch of our bodies is a testament to our health. Our feet can provide a lot of information about our health. Our nails give us a glimpse into our body’s health. Even our urine sheds some light on the subject. And in that spirit, we have the tonsils as well.

Many people panic when they see white spots on their tonsils. And that’s to be expected. After all, who wants to see white spots in your throat? Well, today I want to help you understand what these white spots are, if there’s a treatment, and what causes them.

What are white spots?

White spots that appear on the inside of your throat are caused by an infection (the most common cause of the condition). When you visit your doctor, he/she can easily identify the problem and diagnose the cause.

For most people, seeing white spots on their tonsils is an alarming sight. But most of the time, there’s no reason to panic. The tonsils are located at the back of your throat (if you open your mouth, you can easily see them). Look in a mirror and open your mouth wide. When you are sick, they are red, swollen, or sore. But white spots are a totally different thing. So, here are some causes for the condition.

Tonsil stones

All of us can develop tonsil stones. They are hardened white deposits of fragments that are composed of food particles, dead cells, bacteria, and mucus. Our tonsils can usually fight off the infection. However, sometimes, when tonsil stones get trapped, our tonsils can become infected. Some of the symptoms for this condition, in addition to white spots, include bad breath and ear aches. The good news is that there is no need for treatment. The only cause for concern is that if the stones cause discomfort, your doctor might recommend removal of your tonsils.

Tonsillitis

This is the most common cause of white spots. An inflammation of the tonsils, the condition is often accompanied by fever and difficulty swallowing. White spots appear as a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection. In addition to white spots, you might notice a stiff neck and experience headaches and fever. Antibiotics are a common treatment for bacterial tonsillitis.

Pharyngitis / Strep throat

Other throat conditions are pharyngitis and strep throat. They are similar conditions, and both manifest as white spots on the tonsils. When comparing these two, a strep throat is more serious because it’s the result of a bacterial infection. Strep throat can cause a sore throat, fever, chills, nausea, and difficulty swallowing. If you ignore the problem, strep throat can progress and the bacteria can enter your bloodstream. Pharyngitis, on the other hand, is a viral infection, which means there is no need for antibiotics.

Oral thrush

A bacterial infection is not the only infection causing white spots on your tonsils. A fungal infection, like oral thrush, can cause the same problem. We all have the oral thrush fungus in our body. The problem occurs when the levels of the candida albicans fungus rise, causing an imbalance. In addition to the tonsils, you will notice white spots on your tongue and cheeks, which might alter your sense of taste.

Mono

Known as the kissing disease, mononucleosis is a viral infection. And yes, you can get it from kissing. However, this infection is caused by a virus that most people are infected with as children. Severe throat, headache, tiredness, and fever are the symptoms to look for.

STDs

This is why people start panicking when they see white spots on their tonsils. Some sexually transmitted diseases cause white spots, and people start to panic. Those include gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus, HIV, and chlamydia. In addition to white spots, you will experience symptoms like nausea, fever, reduced appetite, mouth sores, itchy mouth, pain, swollen gums, and swollen lymph nodes.

Smoking

Smoking in and of itself is not a cause of white spots. But smoking increases the risk of oral cancer and leukoplakia, two conditions that are severe. White patches and white spots that appear on the tonsils, mouth, and tongue are the early signs of the disease. Once you stop smoking, these spots might disappear. However, your doctor will have to examine you to detect whether they are cancerous or not. If they are, your doctor will scrape them off.

Syphilis

Another sexually transmitted disease, syphilis deserves its own paragraph. This disease is caused by Treponema pallidum, which is also responsible for white patches on your mouth and tonsils. Symptoms in the secondary stage of the disease include rashes on the legs and arms, fine red dots on your palms and the soles of your feet, sore throat, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, feeling of tiredness, and fever. In the case of syphilis, a penicillin injection is the common treatment. The doctor will check for other STDs as well.

Diphtheria

Respiratory infections can also cause white patches, and diphtheria is the perfect example. This disease affects the throat and your nostrils. In the first stage of the infection, you will notice gray-white layer on the tonsils, or white patches. Symptoms include fever, difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing. The good news is that all children are vaccinated for diphtheria at an early age.

Oral herpes

Herpes can spread through kissing, sharing utensils, or oral sex. Oral herpes is an HSV-1 infection, while genital herpes is an HSV-2 infection (the latter spreads by sexual contact). But back to oral herpes: the most common symptom is a sore on your lip. But the herpes virus can also cause sores and white spots that appear on the tonsils and the throat. You will also experience itching and tingling in the area of the sores, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, and fever.

Treatment

Whatever the cause of the white spots on your tonsils is, I don’t recommend trying to cure it on your own. The best thing to do is to visit the doctor. There are a few things you can do to get rid of white spots, but try them only for few days. If the problem is still there, visit the doctor. Here are some common tips for getting rid of white spots and patches on your tonsils:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink warm fluids to cure throat pain
  • Gargle with salt water
  • Eat smooth foods, like yogurt and ice cream
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Avoid irritating foods, like spicy and processed foods
  • Use a cotton swab to dislodge tonsil stones
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid alcohol consumption

White spots and your doctor appointment

White spots on tonsils usually disappear on their own after few days. However, if that’s not the case, you should make an appointment to see the doctor. You need to know what to expect there.

For starters, your physician will perform a simple test just by looking at your throat. He will perform a brief physical examination, including questions about your personal health and the symptoms. If he is not 100% sure, your doctor will order a lab test.

There are a few things that you can do to prepare for your examination:

  • First thing that some people recommend is to take photos. White spots on your tonsils might get better or worse as the days pass by. If you wait a few days before making an appointment, make sure to document the condition and the process in the meantime.
  • Write down the questions you want to ask your doctor. This way, once you enter the office, you will be prepared.

Remember, you will have just a limited amount of time at the doctor’s office, so be sure to take notes.

White Spots on Tonsils: Should You Panic?

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