The palatine tonsils
- Category: Immune and lymphatic systems
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The palatine tonsils are located at the back of the throat. One tonsil is located on the left side of the throat and the other is located on the right side. The tonsils play a role in protecting the body against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
Each tonsil consists of a network of crypts (pits) that store cells used to fight infection. The tonsils contain B cells, a type of white blood cell that fights infections. They also produce antibodies against polio, streptococcal pneumonia, influenza, and numerous other infections. Antibodies are proteins that help the body identify and attack harmful invaders.
The tonsils also contain several types of T cells, which are white blood cells that destroy cells infected with viruses and help the body build immunity to infectious organisms.
Tonsillitis occurs when bacterial or viral organisms cause inflammation of the tonsillar tissue. This results in fever, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, ear pain, loss of voice, and throat tenderness. Recurrent tonsillitis sometimes results in the need for a tonsillectomy. During this procedure, a surgeon removes the palatine tonsil tissue. This may lessen the frequency of new infections.