Peritonsillar abscess is a complication of tonsillitis. It is most often caused by a type of bacteria called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.
Peritonsillar abscess is usually a disease of older children, adolescents, and young adults. It has become uncommon with the use of antibiotics to treat tonsillitis.
One or both tonsils become infected. The infection may spread over the roof of the mouth (palate), and to the neck and chest, including the lungs. Swollen tissues may block the airway, which is a life-threatening medical emergency.
The abscess can break open (rupture) into the throat, infecting or further blocking the airway.
Symptoms of peritonsillar abscess include:
Difficulty opening the mouth, and pain with opening the mouth
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.