What is Tonsil Ulceration? And Should I Be Worried?
Published Dec 21, 2020
A sore throat is something that most, if not all, people have experienced at least once in their lives. It’s called a sore throat because that’s what the condition feels like, a sore throat. However, not all pain in the throat and tonsils are caused by this condition. Sometimes, that pain in the back of your throat is brought about by tonsil ulceration.
What is tonsil ulceration?
Aphthous ulcers, or more commonly known as canker sores, are the small, shallow lesions that appear on the soft tissues of the mouth and the base of the gums. Don’t underestimate them for their size because these little guys pack a painful punch. If you’ve ever experienced canker sores, you’d understand how difficult they make menial tasks like eating and speaking.
Then, you have tonsil ulcers or sores. If you thought having a canker sore on your tongue, cheek or lip was painful, try having them on your tonsils. The pain of having them on your tonsils is increased significantly and makes even swallowing liquids the most painful of tasks.
Tonsil ulcers, like other canker sores, have a distinct appearance that sets them apart from other conditions. They have a red edge with a center of either white, gray, or yellow flesh. Depending on how deep the ulcer is in your mouth, you may be able to see them with the help of a mirror. Unlike the notorious cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus, canker sores are not contagious.
The primary telltale symptom of a mouth ulcer is pain. Almost immediately, you will notice a sharp, stinging pain once your ulcers come into contact with anything. Because of tonsil ulcers’ position in the mouth, people often mistake it for strep throat or tonsilitis.
A day or two before the sore appears, you may even experience a burning or tingling sensation within your mouth where the sore will appear. Additionally, once the sore appears and comes into contact with salty or acidic food, you will feel it right away.
Despite the prevalence of canker sores, nobody knows what the exact causes are. However, anecdotal evidence and correlations have led people to believe that the following increase the risk of developing mouth ulcers:
- acid reflux
- autoimmune diseases
- bacterial, fungal, or viral infection [herpes simplex virus (HSV), human papillomavirus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)]
- cancer and chemotherapy
- emotional stress
- excessive coughing
- excessive vomiting
- hormonal fluctuations (as in menstruation)
- mouth cuts arising from dental operations and inadvertent biting of your cheek
- mouthwashes and toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- nutritional deficiencies
- reaction to specific foods
Although canker sores happen to virtually everyone, they’re more common in women than in men. Furthermore, they’re also found more in teens and young adults than the older population.
Left on their own, tonsil ulcers and other canker sores will typically go away after a week or two.
However, if your tonsil ulcers are just a symptom of a more severe underlying condition, treatment involves addressing that condition. This includes:
- Antiviral, antibiotics, and antifungal treatments
- Pain relief medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help manage the discomfort
- mouthwash or rinses to treat pain and aid healing
If your sores get worse and last for more than two weeks, then it would be best to get yourself checked, as you could have major aphthous stomatitis. With this condition, your sores will be larger than normal and cause scarring. While both conditions require little to no treatment, several over-the-counter (OTC) medications exist to manage the pain and accelerate healing.
Typical home remedies for canker sores include:
- Gargling with a saltwater rinse
- Applying milk of magnesia to the sore
- Applying ice to the sore to reduce pain
While there isn’t a specific set of things you should be trying to prevent, here are some healthy practice to reduce the risks of tonsil ulceration:
- Avoid trigger foods – Certain foods irritate people’s mouths, including salty and acidic ones (like citrus fruits).
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet – Avoid nutrition deficiencies by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
- Good oral health habits: This includes regular brushing and flossing to prevent food particles that could trigger sores.
Reducing your stress: Practicing meditation or engaging in relaxing hobbies will help lower your stress, which is a big factor in mouth ulcers.
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