The tonsils are two oval-shaped lumps of tissue that sit on either side of the back of the throat. Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils, usually resulting from a viral or bacterial infection. The location of these organs means most symptoms of tonsillitis impact the throat and surrounding areas. Because the tonsils act as defense mechanisms that protect against infection, tonsillitis can affect various aspects of the lymphatic system, as well.
As much as 80% of tonsillitis cases are the result of viral infections. Usually, the same viruses that cause the common cold also lead to tonsillitis, though many others can be responsible, as well. The viruses that most frequently cause tonsillitis are rhinovirus, influenza, adenovirus, and coronavirus. Occasionally, the condition is due to more serious infection, such as HIV or herpes simplex virus. White blood cells within the tonsils destroy the viruses, but because the organs act as filters, they are particularly vulnerable. Some symptoms of tonsillitis occur directly from the infection, while others develop because of the immune response.
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