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White Spots on Tonsils

What do white spots on tonsils mean? Big, or small spots that appear as little dots on tonsils or white patches on tonsils mean many things including oral infections and STDs. Furthermore, white sores on tonsils, sore throat and pain can accompany these white stuff or patches in mouth and the adjacent organs like tongue, gums and pharynx? What do you do when there is no pain or fever? We have information for you to find out the causes, symptoms including oral cancer and STDs.

What are tonsils?

picture of normal tonsils in adults
picture of normal tonsils in adults

These are two small glands located on each side of the back of throat whose function is to filter out microorganisms. It thus mainly offers as a defensive mechanism against infections of the oral tract. What do they look like? See this picture beside.

What causes white spots on tonsils?

If you have these white spots on your tonsil, you must be wondering why you have them. Read on for information on what causes white spots, patches, the symptoms including pus on tonsils?

1. Oral thrush

Oral thrush is a mouth infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida species. This fungal infection is a very common infection among children but can affect adults more so those adults whose body immune system is compromised or weakened by other human diseases or infections such as HIV, cancer, etc.

white spots on tonsils - oral thrush symptoms in mouth of a baby
white spots on tonsils – oral thrush symptoms in mouth of a baby

By looking at its symptoms, oral thrush is characterized by creamy white patches and lesions on tongue. These lesions and patches could also be found on roof of mouth especially in children, on inner cheeks, gums and on tongue too. If the infection is not treated in time, these symptoms may spread to the tonsils and back of throat.

2. Tonsillitis

Secondly, another cause of white spots on tonsils is tonsillitis. It refers to the inflammation of the (pharyngeal) tonsils and it may involve the lingual tonsils and adenoids. The inflammation is commonly caused by a viral infection (but can also be due to bacteria). The viruses that cause tonsillitis are the same flu virus or viruses causing common cold.

In case of bacterial infection, a group of streptococcus bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes is responsible for inflammation of the tonsils.

While many children get tonsillitis, those who are below 2 years of age are rarely affected.

Symptoms for tonsillitis including sore throat

The occurrence white spots as its symptoms are mostly prevalent on back of the throat. These symptoms include:

  • Getting a sore throat that is accompanied by pain during swallowing,
  • High body temperature or fever,
  • Swollen neck glands,
  • Inflamed tonsils or red and swollen tonsils,
  • Coughing or sneezing,
  • Headache or earache or feeling sick,
  • Feeling tired,
  • White spots with pus or pus that appear as white spots.

It should be NOTED that some of these symptoms for tonsillitis are produced by specific types of tonsillitis. According to American Academy of Otolaryngology, there are about four types of tonsillitis namely: acute tonsillitis, chronic tonsillitis, recurrent tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess as another type.

We shall look at acute and chronic tonsillitis briefly.

Acute tonsillitis

This type is characterized by fever or (high body temperatures), bad breathe from mouth, difficulty during swallowing, swollen tonsils, snoring, breathing through mouth, etc.

Chronic tonsillitis

Patients with this type of tonsillitis have sore throat, halitosis (also referred to as unpleasant bad odor), inflamed tonsils, and tenderness in neck lymph nodes which tends to be persistent.

Is tonsillitis contagious?

Can someone catch tonsillitis or get it from an infected victim? As a condition, tonsillitis is contagious. That is to say it can be spread from one infected person to another usually through contact or air as the affected one coughs or sneezes.

Health facilitators encourage parents to take their children for diagnosis in case they develop set of symptoms as highlighted above.

3. Tonsil stones or tonsilloliths

According to Wikipedia, tonsilloliths or tonsil stones are “clusters of calcified material that form in the crevices of the tonsils,” that occur commonly in the palatine tonsils or lingual tonsils.

From this definition, tonsil stones are composed of calcium (whitish metal) deposits but other elements such as phosphorus and magnesium may be present.

What causes tonsil stones? Human tonsils comprise small ‘pocket’ structures which are hidden within. Since the function of tonsils is to trap harmful microorganisms and other stuff or materials, these same things may get trapped. Once this takes course, “the debris can become concentrated in white formations that occur in the pockets,” [www.webmd.com] after which they harden or calcify with time.

A majority of cases in patients with tonsils with white spots are small tonsilloliths i.e. “small tonsil stones”.

Tonsilloliths Symptoms

Like tonsillitis, the symptoms of tonsil stones may be familiarized with pain when swallowing (due to sore throat) and coughing, but sometimes there are no symptoms produced. Other signs include, bad breath, metallic taste in mouth, choking and closing of throat.

We shall look at how to deal with, treat and how to prevent tonsil stones later. Don’t go away!

4. White spots on tonsils STDs

Apart from what we have discussed so far, some STDs are responsible for causing white spot on tonsils. In most instances, the STDs associated with white spot symptoms tend to compromise immunity of its sufferers. Following are explanations as to why such infections are most likely to cause a sore throat with white spots.

a. Oral herpes

One of the sexually transmitted diseases STDs is genital herpes. Herpes can be caused by herpes simplex virus, (HSV-1) type 1 or (HSV-2) type 2.

Now, herpes simplex virus type 1 normally causes cold sores or fever blisters. If these fever blisters have formed around your lips they can spread to the genital area if one of the partners is infected with HSV-1 virus. The cold sores can also appear in the mouth. “Characteristic fever blisters in the mouth and on lips, and white spots on the back of the throat, often reoccurring,” [whitespotson.com] is a symptom that your partner is has oral herpes infection.

Oral herpes can he spread from one victim through kissing or if they practice oral sex more than often. The reason as this oral infection keeps on recurring is due to the fact the sores may be absent or invisible but yet the virus can get transmitted during oral sex.

b. Syphilis infection

Syphilis is caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. As a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis can be transmitted from one person to another through unprotected sex. The bacteria can also get through cuts on skin or small abrasions and mucous membranes.

The first stage of syphilis infection is marked by small painless sores. It could be a single sore in mouth, around anus or genitals.

In adults, syphilis develops in various stages. Each stage is characterized by symptoms that may differ from each other. If it enters the body after oral sex especially in actively sexual individuals, the following are symptoms during the secondary stage. They include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes,
  • Sore throat,
  • Muscle aches or feeling very tired,
  • Fever and headaches,
  • Patchy hair loss, weight loss, etc.

c. Gonorrhea

Another yet feared STD is gonorrhea. Like syphilis, gonorrhea is also caused by infections of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.

Although gonorrhea is transmitted mostly during sexual intercourse and at birth, this bacterium sp. can also grow in mouth especially in throat. “Symptoms of (oral) gonococcal infections of the throat include redness and swelling of the tonsils, sometimes accompanied by exudate (white spots) on the tonsils.” [mckinley.illinois.edu]

Other areas affected by this infection include the eyes and anus.

5. Strep or strep throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus species. How are strep symptoms different from cold infection? Even though both infections are characterized by a sore throat, strep can cause a sudden soreness in throat. Other symptoms observed are:

  • Red tonsils with white spots,
  • Pain inflicting swallowing,
  • Fever,
  • Sometimes loss of appetite can result.

6. Infectious Mononucleosis or mono

Infectious mono is caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that can be spread through saliva. It is also called the “kissing disease.”

Signs and symptoms produced or experienced by patients include swollen tonsils, sore throat, fever or headache, swelling in lymph nodes in (cervical) neck region. Other signs may be in form of a skin rash, and enlargement of the spleen as one of the complications.

In severe infection symptoms, patients can experience a severe red and sore throat or tonsils with white spots or pus.

7. Vincent’s angina – trench mouth

Vincent’s or Vincent angina is non-contagious infection of the mouth gums caused by bacteria which comprise the fusiform bacteria and spirochetes.

According to MedicineNet.com it is described as a painful infection with ulceration (produce mouth ulcers), swelling and sloughing off of dead tissue from the mouth and throat. “In some cases the infection can spread to the tonsils and causing sore throat.” [anginasymptoms.net]

8. White spots on tonsils allergies

Do allergies have effects on tonsils or throat? Yes. If you are a patient on post nasal drip good chances are that the drip may be a source of allergy whose effects result in irritation of the back of the throat. What could be happening again is that your body responds by producing more mucous so as to protect the lining (mucosa). Adding to that, molds could also be another reason why there is an increase in production of more mucous.

However, due to insufficient information from patients who have had similar cases, seasonal allergies may be or may not be the reason for white spots to appear on tonsils. Furthermore, it is wiser to stay away from and avoid places of sources of seasonal allergies molds are growing.

9. Can oral cancer cause white spot on tonsils?

Oral cancer or cancer of mouth appears as growth of cells and tumors which develop and cause damage to surrounding tissues of the oral cavity such as the lips, tongue, floor of the mouth and gums. This usually occurs when the normal lifecycle of tissue cells is interfered, leading to uncontrollable growth and reproduction.

The tumors can also spread to areas such as tonsils, salivary glands, throat which includes the pharynx or wind pipe.

Typical symptoms of oral cancer include formation of ulcers, lumps and “red or white patches on the lining of mouth or tongue,” [www.nhs.uk] plus tonsils if the growth cancer cells is not controlled. These symptoms are more likely to persist for more than three weeks.

People who smoke or chew tobacco are at a higher risks of developing oral cancer. A similar case applies for alcoholics and people with infections such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) among other conditions.

10. Pharyngomycosis

white dots on tonsils due to pharingomycosis
white dots on tonsils due to pharingomycosis

Moving on, another probable cause of tonsils with white spots or dots is pharingomycosis. Basically, this is a fungal infection affecting the mucous membranes lining the pharynx. Take a look at the image captured from a patient with this infection.

Other causes on white spots on tonsils including patches and dots

There are more probable reasons for occurrence of white spots, patches, stuff or things on tonsils. For instance diphtheria, leukoplakia and exposure to certain chemicals.

What about white patches on tonsils?

What causes white patches on tonsils? As opposed to white dots or tonsils with white spots, white patches may appear to have thicker, more irregular shapes and could cover larger areas forming irregular patterns as depicted in some of the random pictures of infected tonsils.

It can be concluded that oral thrush, chronic tonsillitis, strep throat are some common causes of patchy white spots on your tonsils and in mouth including the throat.

White spots on tonsils pictures including white patches and bumps

The pictures we have provided are for purposes of giving a detailed and more comprehensive discussion or a better understanding of symptoms.

white spots on tonsils - white spots on throat due tonsil stones
white spots on tonsils – white spots on throat due tonsil stones


oral thrush can lead to white patches on tonsils and tongue
oral thrush can lead to white patches on tonsils and tongue

White spots on tonsils and tongue causes

One of the common causes of white spots on tonsils and tongue is oral candidiasis or mouth thrush. Mouth cancer may also be a culpable culprit but it first requires one to get an oral cancer screening test.

How to get rid of white spots on tonsils including tonsillitis

Getting rid of white spots on tonsils largely depends on what causes them and hence relies on the set of symptoms associated with tonsils. The symptoms can be properly evaluated after thorough diagnosis so as to rule out other cases presented with more or less similar signs and symptoms.

Before administration of any treatment it is recommended that patients be diagnosed first.

Treatment of the underlying cause

This is one of the effective way to get rid of tonsils with white spots or patches only if the respective cause is actually known. For example, syphilis can easily be cured during the primary stage using penicillin.

Some infections have vaccinations that can help control the symptoms.

 Tonsillitis treatment and how to aid recovery

What is the treatment for tonsillitis? In acute tonsillitis, symptoms are expected to go away after a 1 – 2 week period. However, there is need to control, minimize or get over certain symptoms that may cause unnecessary discomfort such as pain, fever, and obstruction of smooth flow for efficient gaseous exchange.

i. Medicines to cure pain

One way to relieve of pain is by taking correct doses of paracetamol, ibuprofen or any other appropriate pain reliever medications that is recommended by a medical practitioner or doctor.

ii. Take in plenty of fluids

Besides taking medicines as cures patients are also advised to take a lot of drinks to prevent total dehydration from occurring. Proper hydration can also help bring down fever and high temperature.

iii. Antibiotics and lozenges for soothing sore throat

Are antibiotics necessary for treatment of tonsillitis? These medicines and over the counter lozenges also give patients who have sore throats an easy time. However, they not all are can be used as an alternative to treatment given by health facilities. For instance, due to the fact that most tonsil infections are caused by viruses, antibacterial medications would not be effective.

iv. Tonsil removal surgery or tonsillectomy

Another option to get rid of white spots on tonsils is going for surgery. Unless you have a recurring tonsil infection or have had a bad history of tonsil infection in the past your tonsils need not to be removed.

In case treatment for tonsillitis forces you to get out of work or school occasionally, then it is time to consider going for tonsillectomy. Remember that, during surgery the adenoids could also be removed if they are severely infected. Prior to surgery, a careful diagnosis is necessary to determine how bad your tonsils are damaged.

Why is it important to get a proper oral diagnosis for tonsillitis? If treatment for tonsillitis is taken for granted the infection may spread to nearby organs such as the inner ear, sinuses, etc. This poses a health danger and possibility of serious complications.

White bumps or patches on tonsils no pain, no fever or other symptoms

Some symptoms may not be noticeably felt. Even though there still could be formation of white stuff or dots at the back of throat. Sometimes they may be patchy. For instance presence of bumps and white patches on tonsils without sore throat, fever, nor pain and other symptoms.

This is the high time and right time to talk to your doctor urgently. Since you feel no pain do not ignore and make assumptions or take chances.

Conclusion on white spots on tonsils

Many causes of white spots on the tonsils have common symptoms especially sore throat, pain or difficulty in swallowing and fever. There are a few exceptions some of which necessitate that you go for checkup. The bottom line is to ensure that you go for regular clinical tests including tests for STDs once you start to feel there is a health issue with your mouth. In this way, at least you can prevent getting oral problems or infections or complications.

Our Reference and Quoted Sources
  1. Oral Thrush in Babies, NHS choices, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Oral-thrush—babies/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  2. What Can Cause White Spots On Tonsils? The Most Common Causes, Further Reading http://whitespotson.com/causes-of-white-spots-on-tonsils/, last reviewed on 19 July 2016, accessed on 3rd August 2016.
  3. Tonsillitis: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Tonsillitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  4. Tonsillolith: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonsillolith, an updated of 29 July 2016 at 14:27, accessed on August 3rd
  5. Tonsillitis: http://patient.info/health/tonsillitis-leaflet.
  6. Tonsillitis, American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, http://www.entnet.org/content/tonsillitis, last update 1/11. Accessed on May, 3 2016.
  7. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, University of Illinois, McKinley Health Center, http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/chlamydia_gonorrhea.html.
  1. Mononucleosis, Mayo Clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mononucleosis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20165844, published on December 11, 2015.
  2. Mouth cancer: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cancer-of-the-mouth/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
  3. Is Your Sore Throat a Cold, Strep Throat or Tonsillitis? http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/sore-throat-cold-strep-throat-tonsillitis?page=2.
Recommended Reading

White Spots on Tongue: http://health.knowfacts.org/tongue/white-spots-on-tongue/white-spots-tongue-tip-side-back-tongue-causes-pictures-getting-rid/.

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