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What to know about tonsillitis, which has put Miley Cyrus in the hospital

Health.com logo Health.com 5 days ago Korin Miller
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Related Video: Miley Cyrus Hospitalized With Tonsillitis (Provided by Today)

Miley Cyrus has been through a lot lately. First, she split with her husband, Liam Hemsworth, after less than a year, then she had another breakup with her (now ex–) girlfriend Kaitlynn Carter. Now, Cyrus has apparently been hospitalized with a nasty bout of tonsillitis. 

Cyrus revealed her hospitalization in her Instagram Stories Tuesday, sharing multiple shots from her hospital room. In one photo, Cyrus said she's trying to “heal [as] quick as possible to make it to Gorillapalooza” this weekend. “Send gooooood vibes my way! ... We got gorillas to save!" she wrote.

In another post, she shared a photo of herself in a hospital gown with her mom, Tish Cyrus, brushing her hair. She also posed for a photo after "redesigning" her hospital gown.

Luckily, Cyrus seems to be on the mend—but you might still be wondering what tonsillitis is exactly, and why she'd need to be hospitalized for it. Here's what you need to know.

OK, what is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is, essentially, inflammation of the throat that affects your tonsils, the visible lumps of tissue on the left and right sides of the back of your throat, according to the US National Library of Medicine (USNLM). Just FYI: Your tonsils are part of your lymphatic system, which clears away infections and keeps bodily fluids in balance. Your tonsils (along with your adenoids, which are a patch of tissue high up in your throat behind your nose) actually work by trapping germs that come in through the mouth and nose.

Tonsillitis is typically caused by a viral infection, but sometimes bacterial infections (like strep throat) can also be to blame.

Children and teens are more likely to develop tonsillitis, but, while it's not common in adults, technically anyone can develop it, per the USNLM. And while tonsillitis itself isn't contagious, the bacteria and viruses that cause it are—which is why frequent hand washing and other precautions are important to prevent catching or spreading the infections.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

Symptoms can vary, but the USNLM says these are pretty typical signs that you have tonsillitis:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen and very red tonsils with a yellowish coating
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen and painful lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue or lethargy

How is tonsillitis diagnosed—and how is it treated?

Doctors typically begin a tonsillitis diagnosis with a medical history and current symptoms. Then, the provider will do a visual check of your throat and neck for redness or white spots on the tonsils (which can signal strep throat) and swollen lymph nodes. You may also need a rapid strep test or throat culture to check for strep throat.

Once it's determined that you have tonsillitis, it’s treated with medication to relieve the pain and fever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, along with antibiotics (if the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection), per the USNLM. Using throat lozenges, gargling with salt water, and drinking tea may also help with symptoms.

In some cases, if you've had tonsillitis regularly, if bacterial tonsillitis doesn't get better with antibiotics, or your tonsils are so inflamed that you're having trouble breathing and swallowing, your doctor might recommend having a tonsillectomy, or a surgery to remove your tonsils. Luckily, that's often a same-day surgery and can take just 1–2 weeks to fully heal.

As for Cyrus, she hasn’t revealed why she was hospitalized for her tonsillitis or if she’s having surgery; but it seems like whatever happens, she'll be documenting it on Instagram. 

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