Tonsillitis - Diagnosis

Tonsillitis can be diagnosed from visible symptoms and a physical examination. A doctor will examine the patient's eyes, ears, nose, and throat and look for signs of swelling, redness, or discharge.

The doctor may also take a throat culture. To do a throat culture, the doctor wipes a cotton swab across the tonsils and back of the throat. The swab is then tested for the presence of bacteria and viruses that cause tonsillitis.

Some tests can be performed quickly. A doctor may suspect the presence of certain disease-causing bacteria almost immediately. He or she can then prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. An antibiotic is a substance derived from bacteria or other organisms that fights the growth of other bacteria or organisms.

But a longer waiting period is needed for more reliable tests. The cotton swab may need to be incubated for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. During incubation the swab is kept in a warm, moist environment. Bacteria and viruses grow well in this environment. A researcher can then study the material on the swab under a microscope and determine which bacteria and/or viruses are present. With this information, the doctor can make a sound diagnosis of the patient's condition.

A doctor may decide to conduct exclusionary tests also. An exclusionary test is one performed to find out if some condition other than tonsillitis is present. For example, the patient's sore throat might be caused by diphtheria. Blood tests will often rule out infections other than those that cause tonsillitis. If no other infections are present, the doctor may decide that the patient's problem really is tonsillitis.

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