Have you ever seen white chunks, which feel like tiny pieces of stones or chalk, coming out from the back of your throat and somehow smelling like rotten eggs? Probably, some of you might have seen these chunks and wondered what they were and where they came from. These must not be taken lightly and are signs that your body is unhealthy and needs treatment.
If someone asked you where stones can form in the human body, you might think of the kidneys. But, the kidneys aren’t the only place. The tonsils are another location where hard, and sometimes, painful stones may develop in certain people. Just to let you know, tonsils are found in the back of your mouth and are an important defence system against harmful microbes.
The tonsils are wedged at the back of your mouth and contain nooks and crevices where bacteria and debris may get accumulated. This accumulation does not occur in normal healthy individuals but in those people who have bad oral hygiene, tend to smoke a lot, drink a lot, or are prone to repeated tonsil infections. This accumulation when gets calcified gives rise to tonsil stones (tonsilloliths). While many people have small tonsilloliths, it is quite rare to have a large and solidified stone.
What are the symptoms in a person with tonsil stones?
Tonsillolith formation is usually accompanied with a multitude of other symptoms. Some of these are:
- Exceedingly bad breath – One of the main indicators of tonsil stones is presence of exceedingly bad breath that accompanies a tonsil infection. The odour is caused by presence of sulphur-producing bacteria that thrive in the environment and produce volatile sulphur containing foul smelling compounds.
- Sore throat – The presence of a tonsil stone itself may cause you to feel pain or discomfort in the area where it is lodged.
- White debris – Some tonsil stones are visible in the back of the throat as a lump of solid white material. This is, however, not always the case. Often they are hidden in the folds of the tonsil.
- Difficulty swallowing – Depending on the size and location of the stones, it may get difficult to swallow solids or even liquids.
- Ear pain – Tonsil stones may cause pain in the ear area because of same nerve supply to both these areas.
- Tonsil swelling – The tonsil may swell up due to the lodged stone and the infection.
How can you treat the tonsil stones and also the symptoms?
Just following these simple methods may lead to improvement in your overall symptoms as well as the stones. The treatment modality of choice eventually depends on the size of the stone and the harm it can cause:
- No treatment – This is for the stones which are of small size and cause no accompanying harm.
- Self-removal – Sometimes the patients tend to remove these stones on their own using picks/swabs, etc.
- Salt water gargles – Gargles with warm saline water tends to ease the inflammation due to tonsillitis that is usually seen and also the pain. Also, non-alcoholic mouthwash is useful for masking bad breath.
- Antibiotics – Some antibiotics may be necessary to treat the symptoms of infection though they are unable to treat the underlying cause of tonsillolith formation and may have side effects.
- Surgical removal – Large stones causing great discomfort may need surgical removal. Usually, the procedure is using local anaesthesia and and is a simple technique.
How can you prevent tonsillolith formation?
The best way to prevent occurrence of tonsil stones is to get the tonsils removed, known as tonsillectomy. The procedure is done under general anaesthesia and patients usually have sore throat or difficulty swallowing for a few days post surgery.
Watch the video here for surgical tonsil stone removal and tonsillectomy:
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