Potential dangers of untreated tonsillitis

Fact Checked

Tonsillitis is a condition where tonsils or clumps of fleshy tissues positioned on each side of the back of the throat become infected by bacteria or virus. When it comes to viral tonsillitis, it often subsides without requiring any form of treatment. On the other hand, bacterial tonsillitis would require a course of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor so that the infection will go away. If tonsillitis is not treated right away, it can cause the development of a variety of complications that are harder to manage.


Once the tonsils are infected, they generate pus which is a sticky fluid comprised of white blood cells, dead cells and cell debris. Take note that the pus might be trapped in the space between the soft tissues of the tonsils and results to an abscess. The pus within the abscess can leak into the bloodstream, resulting to further complications.

In most cases, an abscess requires drainage or aspiration. Since some of the spaces are difficult or impossible to reach physically, draining of the abscess can be a hard task.

If tonsillitis is not treated right away, it can cause the development of a variety of complications that are harder to manage.

Rheumatic fever

Rheumatic fever can develop particularly among children after an infection by the Streptococcus strain A bacteria. This condition is often the result of a delayed immune system response to the bacteria which causes inflammation of the joints, fever, rashes, as well as weight loss, fatigue and stomach pain.

The treatment of rheumatic fever involves the administration of antibiotics to fight off the bacteria, anti-inflammatory medications to minimize joint inflammation and bed rest. As for severe cases, it would require hospitalization since it can cause inflammation of the heart valves, thus proper diagnosis and treatment are vital.

Sleep apnea

Tonsillitis can cause the tonsils to swell. If not treated right away, the swelling can cause airway obstruction and interference with normal breathing. Understandably, this can cause sleep apnea which is a condition where the breathing stops sporadically or becomes shallow while sleeping.

Those who suffer from sleep apnea can have 5-30 pauses in the breathing during a single night’s sleep. Remember that sleep apnea disrupts sleep, thus resulting to daytime sleepiness.

Acute glomerulonephritis

In rare cases, tonsillitis triggered by certain strains of streptococcus bacteria can result to kidney inflammation which is called acute glomerulonephritis. It is important to note that the glomeruli are the small-sized filtering screens in the kidneys responsible for eliminating waste products from the blood.

Once the bacteria that fight the tonsils enter the bloodstream, the bacteria will eventually find its way to the glomeruli. The immune system of the body reacts by triggering inflammation that causes the formation of scar tissue. The scar tissue disrupts with the ability of the glomeruli to effectively filter out blood, thus resulting to acute glomerulonephritis.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All firstaidreddeer.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.