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What Is a Tonsil Cyst?

Antibiotics are often prescribed for patients with tonsil cysts.
Using antiseptic mouthwash is recommended for those with tonsil cysts.
Tonsil cysts, or tonsil stones, are small, yellowish in color, and form in the back of the throat within the tonsils.
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  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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An individual may occasionally notice what looks like a small white lesion or spot on a tonsil. This is typically known as a tonsil cyst or tonsillar cyst. A tonsil cyst is a pouch-like vesicle filled with fluid or pus typically protruding from a tonsil. Most frequently, these tonsil cysts are benign, although in some cases, cancer may be present. A benign tonsil cyst can become infected if not treated in a timely manner.

There are danger signs and warnings to look out for with cysts that have formed on the tonsils. Difficulty in swallowing or anything that prevents the patient from eating normally should be brought to a doctor's attention. General bleeding from the area is not typical with tonsil cysts, although some cases may differ.

Tonsil cysts differ from tonsil stones, which are known as tonsilloliths. A tonsil cyst is generally softer and not solid as a stone would be. Cysts seem more like bumps in appearance. With the presence of cysts located on the tonsils, the typical procedure involves a physician performing a biopsy of the tissue. This is done to examine the cells and ensure there are no signs of cancerous tissue present. A doctor can generally tell if the cyst is infected by the fluid matter that drains from it.

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In some patients who suffer from frequent sinus infections or inflamed tonsils, fluid can become trapped and form into a 'pocket.' This sac then becomes a tonsil cyst. Under most circumstances, the doctor might decide to remove the cyst, unless it shows signs of draining on its own. Typically, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat the infection or prevent one from developing. If the tonsils are inflamed and infected, the physician may consider removing them through a surgical procedure known as a tonsillectomy.

In many cases, a general practitioner may refer the patient to a specialist who treats diseases and conditions of the throat. Such a physician is an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT), professionally known as a otorhinolaryngologist. The specialist, who is typically qualified to perform surgery, will most likely have recommendations for the patient. He may tell his patient to refrain from smoking, as this can cause further irritation. Gargling with an antiseptic mouthwash might also be recommended.

If a patient requires removal of the tonsil cyst as well as a tonsillectomy, the physician generally prefers to wait until the infection has been cleared. This is generally after a 10-day course of antibiotic treatment and evaluation. It is considered to be safer to operate when there are no signs of infection present.

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Discuss this Article

anon327766
Post 9

Just go to the ENT. I'm pretty sure 16 years of school wins over reading an article or what other non-doctors think.

clintflint
Post 8

@KoiwiGal - They might be harmless to your tonsils but they sure can give you a few sleepless nights until you work out what they are. I kept feeling like I had something in my throat and spotted a tiny lump of white on one of my tonsils.

I went to the internet and left convinced that the lump was cancer or a cyst or a symptom of strep or any number of things. Every time I looked at it, it seemed to be bigger (which I now realize was my imagination).

When I went to the doctor she basically explained that lots of people have tonsil stones and they are pretty easy to tell from cysts if you know what to look for. But it was pretty embarrassing. I don't want to discourage anyone from going to the doctor, but you need to try not to overreact.

KoiwiGal
Post 7

@anon273547 - The cysts aren't food trapped in the area, those are the tonsil "stones" or tonsilloliths. The cysts are the same as any other kind of skin infections, basically. They might have several causes (including diseases like strep throat).

The stones are generally thought to be caused by a buildup of food getting caught in the tonsils, which is why they are usually associated with bad breath. But, generally, they are pretty harmless in terms of tonsil pathology.

anon273547
Post 6

Go to an ENT doc. If you have strep they can do a culture. I had the same thing and was walking around thinking I had cancer after a doctor freaked me out.

I had a CT scan but can't do the dye because of an allergy so they wanted to biopsy. The second doc said it looked like a cyst and come back in four weeks. He didn't feel it was necessary to biopsy. If it grows we will then biopsy and he could remove tonsil. He said cysts are food or something -- anything just trapped in that area. If it's cancer it grows fast from what I understand and it's hard, not soft to the touch.

I suggest you get it checked out, since ENT docs know what to look for.

Good luck. I am waiting mine out for the next month. I didn't even know it was there until a doc saw it in a routine exam. I still have no clue but the second doc said it appears to be a cyst.

anon256624
Post 5

A tonsil cyst doesn't hurt or bleed. It's a yellowish looking rounded and smooth bump. With strep or a throat infection, you would more than likely have a sore throat and redness. It would appear irritated. Tonsil cysts are painless. In my case, I didn't even know I had one until I went to have my stuffy ear looked at. The doctor saw it when checking my throat.

My ENT said to leave it alone as long as it doesn't bother me. But definitely go see your ENT.

anon133315
Post 4

I've had infectious mononucleosis in June. It began with severe tonsillitis which was mistreated with a antibiotic that put me in hospital due to an allergic reaction. Had two other antibiotics in the next 10 days.

A week ago my annual rhino-secretion at the back of my throat began which led to a very bad throat ache, swollen lymph nodes and tonsils. On the third day it began to look like tonsillitis and the pain got even greater with a fever of 37,4 C (not more). I've been treating my tonsils with whatnot, gargling, granophorin, soda, in an attempt not to take an antibiotic because my immune system had already been shattered enough.

Now a week later my throat doesn't hurt anymore, nor my nodes. It's just that there is a small (or not so anymore) hole in my left tonsil which is constantly filling up with white fluid which i swallow then it fills back in immediately. It's insane!

My doctor still doesn't have the idea of tonsil cyst. I feel like I'm fighting alone against that thing and nobody cares or knows what's going on!? The test says i have no bacterias which may cause an infection. So what the heck? Can a cyst be nonbacterial? -- Yoana

closerfan12
Post 3

I have recently been feeling a lump in my throat kind of around where I would think the bottom of my tonsils would be, so I'm starting to wonder if I might have a tonsil cyst.

Of course, it's so low down in my throat that I'm also a little worried that it could be a laryngeal cyst. When I typed in my symptoms on webMD, they said that I could possibly have a laryngeal cyst, a tonsil cyst, a submandibular cyst, or a parotid tumor!

All those sound kind of scary, so I'm really not sure which one I'm "hoping" it is. I really hate going to the doctor, so I've been putting it off, but I'm afraid I may have to just bite the bullet and go, since it really is quite sore.

Before I go though, what do you guys think could be going on?

FirstViolin
Post 2

@Charlie89 -- I'm not sure how a doctor would tell the difference between a tonsil cyst and a tonsil infection, but here's what I would think they would look for.

The main symptoms of a tonsil cyst, according to the article, are pain swallowing and occasional bleeding. These differ quite considerably from most throat infections, which usually include a fever and more blister-like growths, rather than a big cyst.

Although the article does also say that the doctors usually take a biopsy -- so maybe you're right, maybe it is a hard diagnosis.

But if you're tonsils turn white, you're going to be going to the doctor anyway -- so what are you worried about?

Charlie89
Post 1

How can you tell the difference between a tonsil cyst and, say, a severe case of tonsilitis or strep throat? I mean, without doing a test.

Does a tonsil cyst show up differently than a normal tonsil infection or swollen tonsil, or do they usually appear the same?

I guess I'm just wondering about how doctors diagnose these things to begin with. I mean, with a nasal cyst or an ear cyst it's not like you've got a whole lot of other options when you see something up there, but with a tonsil cyst, it could easily be confused for something else.

So the next time my tonsils turn white, should I be worried about a tonsil cyst, or is it most likely just a case of strep?

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