Peritonsillar abscess is a bacterial infection. It develops on the side of the throat, behind or above the tonsils. The infection causes a pocket of pus to form. This type of abscess usually happens on 1 side of the throat or the other.
The abscess is caused by bacteria. It is usually a complication of another illness such as strep throat.
It is more common in males and people aged 20-40 years old.
Other factors that may increase the chances of a peritonsillar abscess:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
You may need to have tissue tested. This can be done with needle aspiration.
You may need to have pictures taken of the inside of your neck. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include:
Medications may include:
The abscess may be punctured with a needle to remove fluid. A sample of the fluid will be sent to the lab for testing. This procedure can be done in the doctor’s office.
An incision and drainage procedure may be done. While under sedation, a small cut will be made in the abscess. The fluid will be drained.
A tonsillectomy may be recommended if all other treatments fail. This involves removing the affected tonsil. This may also be done if you have had previous peritonsillar infections or abscesses.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head, and Neck Surgery
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Dunn N, Lane D, Everitt H, Little P. Use of antibiotics for sore throat and incidence of quinsy. Br J Gen Pract. 2007 Jan;57(534):45.
Peritonsillar abscess. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115937/Peritonsillar-abscess. Updated October 9, 2017. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Steyer T. Peritonsillar abscess: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(1):93-97.
10/27/2017 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115937/Peritonsillar-abscess: Chau JK, Seikaly HR, Harris JR, Villa-Roel C, Brick C, Rowe BH. Corticosteroids in peritonsillar abscess treatment: a blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial. Laryngoscope. 2014;124(1):97-103.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.