Tonsil cysts have long been researched as clinically common occurrences. However, most are noncancerous (benign) and don’t cause any noticeable symptoms.
Since most cysts on your tonsils are asymptomatic, chances are that what you think might be a cyst could actually be another condition, such as an abscess, tonsilitis, or strep throat.
Read on to learn more about common tonsil issues, as well as the common conditions that are often mistaken for tonsil cysts. Call your doctor right away if you have a fever along with unusual symptoms in your mouth and throat.
- Tonsillitis. This inflammation of the tonsils typically includes swollen tonsils with yellow or white patches or coating.
- Strep throat. This type of tonsillitis caused by a bacterial infection may include swollen tonsils with white patches.
- Infectious mononucleosis. Symptoms of this viral infection may include swollen tonsils.
- Tonsil stones (tonsilloliths). These are calcium deposits caused by a buildup of food particles, bacteria, and mucus.
If you think you have a cyst on one of your tonsils, it could be a peritonsillar abscess.
A peritonsillar abscess is a bacterial infection that can form a pocket of pus near one of your tonsils. It’s often a complication of tonsillitis or mononucleosis. In some cases, it can cause severe symptoms and needs to be drained immediately.
Cysts and abscesses are similar but different. They’re both typically benign and filled with fluid, but an abscess is infected, while a cyst is not. If a cyst becomes infected, it turns into an abscess.
The symptoms of tonsil cancer are similar to tonsillitis or strep throat. They include:
- persistent sore throat
- white or red patch on a tonsil
- discomfort chewing or swallowing
- persistent earache
Tonsil cancer falls into the category of oropharyngeal cancers, cancers that affect the throat and mouth. It normally doesn’t manifest as a cyst, but it may cause symptoms that are similar to tonsil cysts.
Also, cancer in the mouth may not develop as quickly as strep throat or tonsillitis.
It’s estimated that over 53,000 American adults are diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer each year.
Your tonsils, also known as palatine tonsils, are oval-shaped pads located at the back of your throat.
You have one tonsil on the right and another one on the left. They’re covered with a pink mucous membrane, similar to the mucosa of the lining of your mouth.
Tonsils are part of your immune system. They defend against viruses and bacteria that enter your body through your mouth and throat.
Your tonsils contain lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight illnesses.
It’s highly unlikely that a cyst on your tonsils will cause any serious problems. However, you might have another condition that could be mistaken for a cyst, such as:
- strep throat
- infectious mononucleosis
- tonsil stones
- peritonsillar abscess
- tonsil cancer
Schedule a visit with your primary care physician or an otolaryngologist (a physician specializing in the ear, nose, and throat) if you have persistent symptoms, such as sore throat and white or red patches on your tonsil.