How to Tell the Difference between Tonsil Stones and Tonsillitis

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Tonsil stones and tonsillitis can both potentially cause unpleasant symptoms, but one is typically annoying while the other can be potentially dangerous if left untreated. Tonsil stones are typically caused by excessive bacteria and other particles that collect in the crevices of the tonsils and lead to a calcified white buildup, while tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It can be difficult to tell the two conditions apart because some of the symptoms are similar, including bad breath and throat pain. So, how can you tell whether you have tonsil stones or more serious tonsillitis? Here are a few differences between the two conditions.

Tonsil Stones and Tonsillitis

Tonsil Stone Symptoms

Tonsil stones may not cause any noticeable symptoms at all if they are very small. However, if they are undetected and untreated, they are likely to become larger over time and begin exhibiting some of the following symptoms:

  • Bad breath
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty or pain while swallowing foods or liquids
  • Chronic sore throat that may be mild, moderate, or severe
  • Swelling in the tonsil area that is often visible
  • White debris or lumps located on or near the tonsils

It is important to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they are interfering with your ability to eat, sleep, or live a happy and active life. Sometimes tonsil stones are treatable over the counter, but it is important to seek medical help just in case. For some individuals, the embarrassment of chronic bad breath is plenty of reason to seek treatment for tonsil stones. Once the tonsil stones are diagnosed and removed, symptoms typically disappear within one or two days after surgery.

Tonsillitis Symptoms

Many tonsillitis symptoms are similar to tonsil stone symptoms, but there are a few differences that indicate a more serious condition than tonsil stones. Common indications of tonsillitis include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Frequent headaches
  • Fever or chills
  • Body aches
  • Pain and difficulty swallowing
  • Sore and painful eyes
  • Stiff neck
  • Swollen and red tonsils
  • White, gooey substance that covers the tonsils

If you experience some or all of these symptoms, it is important to seek prompt treatment. Tonsillitis is typically treated with penicillin and symptoms should subside within a few days of treatment.

Common Causes

While tonsillitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of tonsil stones, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Allergies

Some individuals may simply be more prone to tonsil stones than others, but they can take comfort in knowing that most tonsil stones can be quite easily removed, and some may not require any treatment at all if they do not cause noticeable symptoms.

Is the Condition Contagious?

Because tonsillitis is often caused by a bacterial infection, it is usually contagious. Because of this, individuals who have the condition should try to stay away from others until they are taking antibiotic treatments. Tonsil stones, on the other hand, are not contagious and cannot be contracted from an infected person.

If you are currently suffering from the symptoms of severe tonsil stones or tonsillitis, be sure to seek professional treatment in order to alleviate your symptoms.


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[…] Tonsil stones and tonsillitis can both potentially cause unpleasant symptoms, but one is typically annoying while the other can be potentially dangerous  […]

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