What are tonsil stones?
Tonsil stones are hard yellow or white formations that are located on or within the tonsils.
It’s common for people with tonsil stones to not even realize they have them. Tonsil stones aren’t always easily visible and they can range from rice- to pea-sized. Tonsil stones rarely cause larger health complications. However, sometimes they can grow into larger tonsilloliths which can cause your tonsils to swell.
What causes tonsil stones?
Your tonsils are made up of crevices, tunnels, and tonsil crypts. Different types of debris, like dead cells, mucus, saliva, and food can get trapped and build up in these pockets. Bacteria and fungi feed on the buildup and contribute a distinct odor. Over time, the debris calcifies to varying degrees of hardness. When this forms, it’s known as a tonsil stone. Some people will have only one tonsil stone, while others will have many smaller formations.
Potential causes of tonsil stones include:
- bad dental hygiene
- having large tonsils
- chronic sinus issues
Symptoms of tonsil stones
Although it may be difficult to see tonsil stones, there are symptoms that may accompany them.
Symptoms of tonsil stones include:
- bad breath
- sore throat
- difficulty swallowing
- ear pain
- swollen tonsils
- white or yellow debris on the tonsil
Smaller tonsil stones may not result in any symptoms, but they’re more prevalent than larger tonsil stones.
Preventing tonsil stones
Tonsil stones commonly occur on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent them. These include:
- Practice good oral hygiene, including cleaning the bacteria off the back of your tongue when you brush your teeth.
- Stop smoking.
- Gargle salt water, which can prevent tonsil stone formation and eliminate the odor they cause.
- Drink the recommended daily requirement of water and stay hydrated.
- If your tonsils cause you regular discomfort, ask your doctor about treatment options.
Tonsil stone removal
Most tonsilloliths are harmless, but many people want to remove them because they can smell bad or cause discomfort. Treatments range from home remedies to medical procedures.
Gargling vigorously with salt water can ease throat discomfort and may help dislodge tonsil stones. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt in 8 ounces warm water and gargle.
You may first discover that you have tonsil stones when you cough one up. Energetic coughing can help loosen stones.
Talk to your doctor before considering removing tonsil stones with tools such as a cotton swab or toothbrush. Your tonsils are delicate tissues so it’s important to be gentle. Manually removing tonsil stones can be risky and lead to complications.
Laser tonsil cryptolysis
During this procedure, a laser is used to eliminate the crypts where tonsil stones lodge. It’s often performed under local anesthesia. Discomfort and recovery time are usually minimal.
In coblation cryptolysis, radio waves transform a salt solution into charged ions. These ions can cut through tissue. As with lasers, coblation cryptolysis reduces tonsil crypts but without the same burning sensation.
The surgical removal of tonsils may be achieved by use of a scalpel, laser, or coblation device. Performing this surgery for tonsil stones is controversial. Doctors who recommend tonsillectomy tend to use it for severe, chronic cases and after all other means have been exhausted.
In some cases, antibiotics can be used to treat tonsil stones. Antibiotics can be used to eliminate the bacteria that play a crucial role in the tonsil stones’ development and growth.
The downside of antibiotics is that they won’t treat the underlying cause that’s resulting in the stones, and they come with their own potential side effects. They also shouldn’t be used in the long term, meaning the tonsil stones will likely return.
Watch this amazing Video of Tonsil Stone Removal.
Distinguish between a sebaceous cyst and epidermoid cyst. An epidermoid cyst is more common than a sebaceous cyst. Each will have slightly different symptoms and will be treated just a little differently. Therefore, it is important that the cyst you have on your skin is diagnosed appropriately for effective treatment.
Both types of cysts are flesh-colored or white-yellow and have a smooth surface.
Epidermoid cysts are more common. These are slow growing and often painless. They don’t usually require treatment, unless they are causing pain or become infected.
Pilar cysts are composed primarily of keratin (the protein that makes up hair and nails) and form from the outer hair root sheath, typically on the head. A pilar cyst is often thought to be another term for a sebaceous cysts, but they are in fact different.
Sebaceous cysts are commonly found in the hair follicles on the head. They form inside the glands that secrete sebum, an oily substance that coats the hair. When these normal secretions are trapped, they develop into a pouch containing a cheese-like substance. They are commonly found in areas near the neck, upper back, and on the scalp. Sebaceous cysts are often confused with pilar or epidermoid cysts.
Distinguish between cysts in the breast and tumors. Cysts can be in one or both breasts. Without a mammogram or needle biopsy it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two different types of lumps in the breast. Symptoms of a breast cyst will include:
Smooth, easily movable lump with distinct edges
Pain or tenderness over the lump
Size and tenderness will increase just before your period starts
Size and tenderness will decrease when your period ends
Understand cystic acne. Acne is a general term that describes a variety of different types of pimples, blackheads, pustules, whiteheads and cysts. Cystic acne are nodules that are red, raised, often 2–4 mm in size and nodular and are the most severe form of acne. The infection in a cystic acne is deeper than that in other pustules or whiteheads. Cystic acne is painful.
Identify a ganglion cyst. These are the most common types of lumps found on the hand and wrist. They are not cancerous and often harmless. Filled with fluid, they can quickly appear, disappear or change in size. They do not require treatment unless they interfere with function or are unacceptable in appearance.
Determine if pain is from a pilonidal cyst. In this condition there is a cyst, abscess or dimple that forms in the crease between the buttocks that runs from the lower end of the spine to the anus. It can be caused from wearing tight clothing, excess body hair, sitting for long periods of time or obesity. Symptoms can include pus from the area, tenderness over the cyst, or the skin may be warm, tender or swollen near the tailbone. Or there may not be any symptoms beside a pit or dimple at the base of the spine.
Distinguish a Bartholin gland cyst. These glands are located on either side of the vaginal opening to lubricate the vagina. When the gland becomes obstructed, a relatively painless swelling forms called a Bartholin’s cyst. If the cyst is not infected you may not notice it. An infection can occur in a matter of days causing tenderness, fever, discomfort walking, pain with intercourse, and a tender, painful lump near the vaginal opening.
See a doctor for swelling in the testicles. All testicular swelling must be diagnosed by a physician to determine the differences between a cyst, cancerous growth, hydrocele or infection in the testicles. A testicular cysts, also called a spermatocele or epididymal cyst, is typically a painless, fluid-filled, noncancerous sac in the scrotum above the testicles. T
Consider getting a second opinion if you are not satisfied with your physician’s diagnosis and treatment. Although most epidermoid and pilar cysts do not require treatment from a physician, if you do seek medical advice and are not satisfied with the results seek a second opinion. Most sebaceous and epidermoid cysts are straightforward, but there are other conditions that may mimic these cysts.
In a case study written in the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the authors presented two cases in which melanoma and a deep oral cavity were originally mistaken for a sebaceous cyst.
There are a variety of other infectious processes that may be mistaken for a sebaceous cyst, including boils, furuncles and carbuncles.
Treating a Cyst at Home
Treat uninfected epidermoid and sebaceous cysts at home. Signs of infection include the area becoming swollen, red, tender, or red and warm. If your home treatment for these cysts is not effective or if you experience symptoms, which indicate an infection, you should seek medical care from your physician.
If the cyst causes pain or discomfort with walking or intercourse, medical care is needed to treat the cyst.
Use a wet, warm compress over an epidermoid cyst to encourage it to drain and heal. The washcloth should be hot but not so hot that it burns the skin. Place it over the cyst two to three times a day.
Cystic acne responds better to ice than it does to heat.
Bartholin gland cysts can be treated at home using warm water sitz baths. This involves sitting in several inches of warm water to encourage the cyst to drain.
Refrain from picking, squeezing, or trying to pop either an epidermoid cyst or sebaceous cyst. This can increase the risk of infection and scarring. Also, never pick, squeeze or attempt to pop a cystic acne. This drives the infection deeper and increases the risk of scar tissue.
Allow an epidermoid cyst to drain naturally. Once it begins to drain, cover it with a sterile dressing, which you can change twice a day. If a large amount of pus begins to drain from the cyst, the skin surrounding the cyst turns red, the area becomes warm and tender, or blood begins to drain from the cyst, it is time to seek medical care.
Keep the area clean. To prevent an infection, keep the cyst and the area surrounding it clean. Wash it daily using an antibacterial soap or cream.
Cysts are fluid-filled pockets that form on the skin. While not usually dangerous, they can be painful and annoying. Depending on the type of cyst, you can usually have a cyst medically removed with the assistance of a doctor.
Dealing with Facial Cysts
Decide if medical intervention is necessary. Facial cysts, medically referred to as sebaceous cysts, can be annoying and unsightly but they don’t necessarily require medical intervention. If the cyst is not painful, it might be best to leave it alone to avoid complications having it removed. However, you should see a doctor if any of the following develop:
-Facial cysts are usually small, round lumps just underneath the skin. They may be black, reddish or yellowish, and occasionally release foul-smelling discharge. Cysts are generally more painful than other skin conditions, such as pimples.
-If the cyst ruptures, this can lead to a potentially dangerous boil-like infection. Prompt treatment and removal is required.
-If the cyst suddenly becomes painful and swollen, it may be infected. See a doctor to get the cyst removed and get the proper antibiotics.
-In very rare cases, a cyst can lead to skin cancer. During your regular annual doctor’s exam, ask your doctor to look at the cyst and determine if it poses a risk for cancer.
Dealing with Facial Cysts
Ask your doctor for an injection. If the cyst is infected or painful, your doctor can inject the cyst with a medication. While this will not fully remove the cyst, it will reduce redness and swelling. This can make the cyst less noticeable.
Have the cyst drained. If the cyst grows significantly or becomes painful and uncomfortable, you can have it medically removed. The cyst can be cut open and drained by your doctor.
– The doctor will make a small cut in the cyst and gently drains out the built up fluid. The procedure is fairly quick and usually not painful.
– The major downside to this method is that cysts often reoccur after being lanced and drained.
Ask about surgery. The only way to fully remove a cyst is through surgery. Talk to your doctor about undergoing surgery if you want a cyst removed.
– Cyst removal surgery is minor. It does not take very long and recovery time is relatively brief. However, you may have to return to your doctor’s office after the surgery to remove any stitches.
– Surgery is very safe and usually prevents cysts from occurring. However, cysts do not usually pose a medical threat. Therefore it may be difficult to get surgery covered by insurance.