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What is Quinsy?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Quinsy is a pus-filled abscess that forms in the throat near the tonsils. Also known as a peritonsilar abscess, quinsy is usually a result of acute tonsillitis, though it may arise from complications with strep throat, leukemia, or mononucleosis. An abscess can cause a number of painful symptoms, including sore throat, swelling, inflammation, fever, and difficulty breathing, swallowing, and speaking. Quinsy is most common among teenagers and young adults, but people of any age are prone to developing symptoms. The prognosis is usually good when a doctor is able to diagnose and treat the condition immediately; when left untreated it can lead to potentially life-threatening infections and breathing problems.

Peritonsilar abscesses emerge when bacteria infects the soft, delicate tissue that surrounds the tonsils. Tonsillitis, mononucleosis, and streptococcal bacteria are the most frequent causes of quinsy. People who have lymphocytic leukemia in their necks are also at risk, as are long-term smokers. Occasionally, a severe mouth or gum infection such as gingivitis can spread to the tonsils and lead to the development of abscesses. As a pertonsilar abscess grows, it fills with pus, spreads the infection, and presents the possibly of developing pneumonia or inflammation of the heart and lungs.

The most common symptoms of quinsy include redness, inflammation, and swelling in the throat and mouth, leading to soreness and itching. Inflammation usually occurs only on one side of the throat, though a severe infection can spread across the entire area. Within five days of an infection, an individual may experience fever and chills, pain and muscle spasms in the jaw, an ear ache, and significant difficulty swallowing. Airways can become blocked as swelling in the throat and lymph glands worsens, leading to breathing and speaking problems. It is essential to seek medical advice when experience some or all of the symptoms of quinsy.

It is usually simple for a doctor to make a diagnosis by looking into a person's throat and noticing swollen tissue and the actual abscess. A physician may order a biopsy to confirm the identity of a specific bacteria or underlying condition, such as mononucleosis. Small peritonsilar abscesses usually go away in one to two weeks with antibiotics and pain medication, though larger abscesses that block airways may require immediate medical procedures. A surgeon might make a small incision in an abscess and drain excess fluid to reduce swelling and inflammation. If tonsillitis is the cause of quinsy, the surgeon may choose to remove the tonsils and treat the abscess with a local anesthetic to relieve symptoms and promote a quick recovery.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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