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White Spots on Tonsils

White Spots on Tonsils: Here’s What You Need to Know

Ever looked into the back of your throat, only to find unusual white spots on tonsils?

While it may be worrying at first, these white spots are a treatable occurrence, and understanding their symptoms and causes can provide the reassurance and guidance that you need.

Symptoms of White Spots on Tonsils

Symptoms of white spots on tonsils can vary depending on the underlying cause. Recognizing these symptoms is important to understand and address the condition effectively.

Here are the common symptoms associated with white spots on tonsils:

  • Sore Throat: Persistent sore throat, often scratchy or tender, and is particularly noticeable during swallowing.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Discomfort or pain while swallowing, varying in severity depending on inflammation and accompanying infections.
  • Swollen Tonsils: Inflammation of tonsils commonly accompanies white spots, making breathing, swallowing, or speaking uncomfortable.
  • Fever: Infections causing white spots on tonsils can induce fever as the body’s immune response, often accompanied by chills, body aches, and fatigue.
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes: White spots on tonsils might prompt enlargement of nearby lymph nodes, palpable as tender, small bumps under the skin in the neck.

Causes of White Spots on Tonsils

Here are the common causes of white spots on tonsils:

  • Bacterial Infections: Causes of white spots on tonsils include bacterial infections like streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat) or tonsillitis, leading to pus-filled spots on the tonsils.
  • Viral Infections: Viruses such as the common cold, influenza (flu), or infectious mononucleosis (mono) can also cause white spots on tonsils, often due to inflammation and debris in the tonsil crypts.
  • Fungal Infections: Certain fungal infections like oral thrush (Candida albicans) can result in white patches or spots on the tonsils and surrounding mouth and throat areas.
  • Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths): Hard formations known as tonsil stones develop in tonsil crypts, consisting of trapped bacteria, dead cells, and debris, often appearing as white or yellowish spots on the tonsil surface.
  • Chronic Tonsillitis: Persistent inflammation of the tonsils, termed chronic tonsillitis, can lead to these spots on the tonsil tissue, causing frequent sore throat episodes.
  • Allergies: Inflammation and irritation of the tonsils due to allergic reactions to environmental factors or certain foods can result in white patches.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): STIs like gonorrhea or syphilis can cause white spots or lesions on the tonsils and surrounding mouth and throat areas, particularly after oral-genital contact.

How To Diagnose White Spots on Tonsils?

Diagnosing the underlying cause of white spots on tonsils typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, using various diagnostic methods. 

Here are the common ways to diagnose white spots on tonsils:

  • Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination of the throat and tonsils is crucial in diagnosing white spots. Using a lighted instrument called a tongue depressor, the healthcare provider checks for signs of inflammation, swelling, or white spots on the back of the throat.
  • Throat Swab: To collect a sample for testing, a throat swab may be performed. This helps identify bacteria like Streptococcus pyogenes or viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus, aiding in diagnosis.
  • Rapid Antigen Tests: Rapid strep tests swiftly detect strep throat by identifying specific bacterial proteins, providing quick results.
  • Throat Culture: Throat cultures grow bacteria or fungi from a throat swab sample, offering a definitive diagnosis for infections and guiding treatment decisions.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests assess overall health and detect signs of infection or inflammation, including elevated white blood cell counts or specific antibodies against pathogens.
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging, like throat ultrasounds or CT scans, may be recommended for severe or persistent symptoms to evaluate inflammation or complications.

Treatments For White Spots on Tonsils

Effective treatment for white spots on tonsils depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Once diagnosed, healthcare professionals can recommend appropriate treatment options to get rid of the symptoms:

  • Antibiotics:
    If the white spots on tonsils are caused by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat or tonsillitis, antibiotics are typically prescribed to eradicate the bacteria and reduce inflammation. Common antibiotics used for bacterial tonsillitis include penicillin, amoxicillin, or azithromycin. It’s essential to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by the healthcare provider.
  • Antifungal Medications:
    In cases where white spots on tonsils are caused by a fungal infection, such as oral thrush, antifungal medications may be recommended. These medications, such as fluconazole or clotrimazole, help eliminate the fungal overgrowth and restore balance to the oral microbiota.
  • Antiviral Drugs:
    Viral infections, such as those caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV), may require antiviral medications to reduce symptoms and speed up recovery. Antiviral drugs like acyclovir or valacyclovir can help suppress viral replication and alleviate symptoms associated with viral tonsillitis or infectious mononucleosis (mono).
  • Pain Relievers:
    Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), can help with these white spots on tonsils. These medications also help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief from painful symptoms while the body fights off the infection.
  • Throat Lozenges or Sprays:
    Throat lozenges containing numbing agents like benzocaine or menthol can help soothe a sore throat and remove discomfort when swallowing. Throat sprays containing topical anesthetics or analgesics may also provide temporary relief from throat pain and irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does white spots on tonsils mean?

White spots on tonsils can indicate various conditions, including bacterial or viral infections, such as strep throat or tonsillitis, as well as tonsil stones or oral thrush.

What are signs of STDs in your mouth?

Signs of STDs in the mouth can include sores, ulcers, lesions, redness, or white patches on the oral mucosa.

When should I be worried?

You should be worried if you experience persistent symptoms such as severe pain, difficulty swallowing or breathing, high fever, or if you notice any unusual changes in your mouth or throat. It's important to seek medical attention promptly for evaluation and treatment.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 02/21/2024

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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