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Peritonsillar Abscess

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Peritonsillar Abscess


Peritonsillar abscess is a pocket of pus. It happens on one side of the throat.

The Tonsils.

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The abscess is caused by bacteria. It is usually a complication of another illness such as strep throat.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in males and people who are 20 to 40 years of age.

Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Pharyngitis or tonsillitis caused by strep bacteria or another bacteria
  • Mononucleosis
  • Recent throat infection or dental infection
  • Periodontal disease
  • Smoking


A person with this abscess may have:

  • Fever
  • Throat pain around the tonsil area
  • A tonsil that is moved to one side
  • Discomfort in the roof of the mouth
  • Neck pain and swelling
  • Bad breath
  • Jaw spasms
  • Drooling and problems swallowing


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the throat. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Tissue may be tested if the diagnosis is not clear. This can be done with needle aspiration.

Images may also be taken of the neck. This can be done with:


The goal is to treat the infection. This can be done with:


The risk of this problem may be lowered by getting treated for throat infections right away.

Supportive Care

An IV may be used to provide fluids and nutrition to people who have problems swallowing.





  • Peritonsillar abscess. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/peritonsillar-abscess.
  • Peritonsillar abscess. Nemours KidsHealth website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/peritonsillar-abscess.html.


  • James Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.