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Your Tonsils and Psoriasis: What To Know

Posted on September 21, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Jane Chung, PharmD, RPh

  • Tonsils are lumps of tissue at the back of the throat. They trap and filter out germs that enter the nose or mouth.
  • People with psoriasis are more likely to experience tonsillitis (swelling of the tonsils from an infection).
  • A tonsillectomy (surgery to remove the tonsils) may help people with psoriasis who experience frequent tonsillitis. However, the procedure has some risk of complications.

If you have psoriasis, you may have wondered if other symptoms you experience — like frequent throat infections — might be related to it. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition, and tonsils are pieces of tissue in the back of the throat. Research studies have observed connections between psoriasis and the tonsils.

Members of MyPsoriasisTeam have asked questions about psoriasis, the tonsils, and conditions that affect the tonsils and throat. “Anyone else have problems with their throats (swollen tonsils, irritation/soreness, bleeding, tonsil stones)?” asked one member.

If you have concerns about your tonsils — or have frequent tonsil and throat infections — talk to your doctor. Read on for more information about the connection between psoriasis and the tonsils, as well as how tonsillectomies have helped people with psoriasis.

What Are Tonsils?

Tonsils — also known as palatine tonsils or faucial tonsils — are two round lumps of tissue at the back of the throat. They are a part of the immune system. They trap and filter out germs that enter the nose or mouth. Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become inflamed (swollen) from a viral or bacterial infection.

Psoriasis, on the other hand, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. It’s thought to be caused by an improperly working immune system. Researchers have hypothesized that connections between psoriasis and the tonsils might come from dysregulated immune system responses in people with psoriasis, as well as changes in the tonsils that make them more susceptible to infection.

What’s the Relationship Between Psoriasis and Tonsils?

Research studies have found several connections between psoriasis and the tonsils.

Psoriasis and Tonsil Infections

People with psoriasis may experience more tonsil infections. A 2013 study found that people with psoriasis experienced more bacterial infections of the tonsils as compared to people without psoriasis. This led researchers to conclude that the immune response in the tonsils may work slightly differently in people with psoriasis.

Psoriasis and Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that affects the throat. It’s a common cause of tonsillitis. Strep throat gets its name from the bacterium that causes it — Streptococcus pyogenes.

Strep throat infection is a common trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. It has also been linked to the development of guttate psoriasis.

MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared their experiences with strep throat and other throat infections. One member said, “As a child, I was supposed to have my tonsils removed due to recurring tonsillitis. Also, I have had strep throat several times — two times in the past year.”

Another member linked their psoriasis to strep throat. They developed the condition after having strep throat for nearly six months. “My mom took me to the doctor every 10 days because it wasn’t getting any better. I had so many rounds of antibiotics and nothing seemed to help,” they said. “Finally, when my strep throat went away, I started to develop skin lesions all over my back and torso.”

Learn more about how strep throat may trigger the development of psoriasis.

Psoriasis and Tonsillectomies

A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils. Because tonsil infections have been linked to psoriasis, people have asked if a tonsillectomy would help their psoriasis. However, the procedure is not a good option for everyone.

Tonsillectomies are typically recommended for people with chronic (long-term) sore throats or tonsillitis that occurs often and does not respond to other treatments.

Guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation help doctors determine whether you may benefit from a tonsillectomy. You may be a good candidate for a tonsillectomy if you’ve had tonsillitis:

  • At least seven times in the past year
  • At least five times per year for two years
  • At least three times per year for three years

Guidelines also advise that you experienced at least one of the following during each throat infection:

  • A fever over 38.3 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the head and neck
  • Tonsillar exudate (a fluid made by the tonsils due to an infection or inflammation)
  • Tests confirming infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria

People with psoriasis are more likely to experience frequent tonsillitis infections. They also have a greater chance of meeting these requirements for needing a tonsillectomy.

Research on Psoriasis and Tonsillectomies

Research studies have explored the effects of tonsillectomies in people with psoriasis.

In 2015, researchers found that about 71 percent of people had improved psoriasis after getting a tonsillectomy. Researchers did not find enough evidence to say that everyone with psoriasis should get a tonsillectomy. However, they concluded that people with worsening psoriasis symptoms who also have repeated tonsillitis may benefit from a tonsillectomy.

In another study, researchers found that tonsillectomy helped treat palmoplantar pustulosis (psoriasis that affects the palms or soles of the feet), plaque psoriasis (psoriasis that causes dry, itchy skin patches), and guttate psoriasis (psoriasis that is triggered by streptococcal infection and causes many small, scaly patches).

A member of MyPsoriasisTeam shared their tonsillectomy success story: “I am three weeks post-tonsillectomy, and my skin is grand. I still have a few psoriasis plaques on my stomach and scalp, but overall, I’m not waking up every day with new psoriasis symptoms — no itchiness either.”

Complications of Tonsillectomies

Like all surgeries, tonsillectomies come with a risk of complications. After a tonsillectomy, a person might experience a reaction to the anesthetics used during the procedure. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sore muscles

Another complication is swelling of the tongue and soft palate (roof of the mouth) within a few hours after surgery, which may cause breathing problems. Bleeding can occur both during and after surgery and may require additional treatment. A rare complication of surgery is an infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics.

Talk to Your Dermatologist

Ask your primary care doctor or dermatologist if you have any questions about your tonsils, tonsillectomies, or your psoriasis symptoms. They can help answer your questions, help you consider your treatment options, and determine the best health care plan for you.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 110,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Are you living with psoriasis and tonsil problems? Have you had a tonsillectomy? What was your experience? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
    Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Jane Chung, PharmD, RPh earned a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Studies and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Learn more about her here.

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