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Tonsils are the two fleshy bumps at the back of your mouth - there’s one on the left and one on the right. They are responsible for trapping and killing germs, and helping prevent throat and lung infections.
But sometimes the tonsils themselves can become infected, and this may cause white spots to appear at the back of your throat.
There are many reasons for getting white spots on your tonsils. This article explains five possible causes.
Are you worried about white spots on your tonsils?
Download our Self-Assessment Tool to find out what they may be.
Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection. As well as white patches on your tonsils, symptoms may include:
You will usually need antibiotics to treat strep throat, but once treatment begins symptoms usually resolve in about a week.
Speak to a doctor if you experience:
If you have white spots on your tonsils it could be a sign of tonsillitis. Tonsillitis is usually a viral infection, and symptoms tend to go away after a week.
Other symptoms of tonsillitis include:
Visit your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve after three to four days, or if they are severe.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you have:
Oral thrush is a fungal infection which can occur in the mouth, and it causes white spots on the tonsils. The white spots can develop on other parts of your mouth too, and sometimes they join together to form larger spots, called ‘plaques’.
Oral thrush is not usually serious or contagious, and in most cases it will resolve without treatment.
As well as white spots, oral thrush can cause:
You can treat oral thrush with a mouth gel from a pharmacy, and treatment usually takes seven days.
You should see your doctor if:
Infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, and one of the symptoms is severe tonsillitis, which causes white spots on your tonsils.
It’s a self-limiting disease, and most people recover in about two weeks, but you may feel tired for a few weeks after your symptoms have subsided.
As well as white spots on tonsils it can cause:
Go to a doctor if you have any symptoms of glandular fever.
Get immediate medical help if you:
Tonsil stones are a build up of debris at the back of your throat. Usually they are nothing to be concerned about, but they can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as:
There are a number of reasons you could have white spots on your tonsils. Most likely the cause isn’t serious, but see a doctor if you have any of the worrying symptoms mentioned above.
You can also try our symptom checker to get more information about what could be causing the white spots on your tonsils.
Patient.info. Tonsillitis | Symptoms and Treatment. 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Patient.info. Oral Thrush. Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of oral thrush. 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Patient.info. Glandular Fever | Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment. 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Patient.info. Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths) | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Nhs.uk. Oral thrush (mouth thrush). 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Nhs.uk. Glandular fever. 2019. Cited 31 Jul. 2019.
Healthline.com. Strep Throat: Symptoms, Pictures, Diagnosis, and Treatment. 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Patient.info. What do tonsils do? | Adenoids Function. 2019. Cited 31 July 2019.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.