What Causes White Spots on Tonsils?

White spots on tonsils

It may make your worry when you suddenly notice the white spots on your tonsils. The white spots on the back of your tongue may indicate different health conditions such as strep throat, tonsillitis, infectious mononucleosis and other contagious diseases.

You can easily remove the white spots on tonsils at home, but before trying any home remedy, it is important to understand the underlying causes.

In this article, we will discuss the common causes, and home remedies to get rid of white spots on the tonsils.

White Spots on Tonsils: Common Causes

White spots on tonsils can be caused by different health conditions. Following are the common causes for white spots on your tonsils:

White spots on tonsils causes

1. Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis or mono or “the kissing disease,” is an infection caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The infection spreads through the saliva. Individuals who develop mono disease may experience flu-like symptoms and notice the white patches around the tonsils (1). These white patches contain pus.

Some common symptoms of mono include:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Body rashes


2. Strep Throat

Strep throat is a contagious disease caused by the group A streptococcus (GAS) bacteria. The infection occurs at the back of your throat and causes throat pain, white spots on tonsils and inflammation (2). Other symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

3. Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils caused by S.pyogenes and other bacteria and viruses. White dots with pus appear on your tonsils as a result of the infection (3). The pus is a sign of either a viral or bacterial infection. Other signs of tonsillitis include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

4. Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones are the calcium build up that grow in the cracks of the tonsils. The buildup is caused by the food, bacteria, dead cells, and mucus. White tiny spots on tonsils, bad breath, and earache are the results of tonsil stones.

5. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is when the yeast infection develops in your mouth or tongue. The infection is caused by the group of yeasts called Candida Albicans (4).

Individuals with immune system issues are more vulnerable to yeast infections. Other factors that put you at risk include long-term use of antibiotics, uncontrollable diabetes, smoking and poor oral hygiene. Creamy white patches appear on the tongue, insides of the cheeks, and roof of the mouth.

6. Oral Herpes

Oral herpes is an infection of the mouth, lips or gums caused by the HSV-1 herpes simplex virus. The infection causes painful blisters on the lips, tongue, gums, the roof of your mouth, and sometimes cause white spots on tonsils (5).

Oral contact or oral sex with someone with genital herpes are two ways oral herpes can be transmitted. The common symptoms include swollen gums and neck as well as burning pain and itchiness.

7. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is when the thick white patches appear on gums, insides of the cheeks, the bottom of the mouth, and tongue (6). White spots on the back of the throat can also occur.

The mild leukoplakia is often harmless and can go away on its own. However, if you see red spots along with the white patches, it can be a sign of serious health condition and requires immediate medical help. Smoking, chewing tobacco, biting of cheeks, improperly fitted dentures, and weakened immune system contribute to leukoplakia.

8. Diphtheria

Diphtheria is one of the highly contagious bacterial infections that affect your nostril and throat. The infection causes a thick white covering on your tonsils. Other symptoms include fever, inflamed lymph nodes, and difficulty breathing and swallowing (7).

This infection is common in children. It can be treated by the DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td vaccination depending on the age and severity of the condition.

9. Vincent’s Angina

Vincent’s Angina is an ulcer in the oral cavity, pharynx, and tonsils (8). The ulcers start on the gums and spread to tonsils and pharynx. They bleed with the slightest touch. White spots can also to form on tonsils. Call your doctor to get the right treatment for this disease.

10. Viral Pharyngitis

Numerous viruses cause viral pharyngitis. Swelling of the tonsils and pharynx are common symptoms of this infection. You may also notice white spots on tonsils developed by the pus. Viral pharyngitis goes away on its own.

Symptoms Associated with White Spots on Tonsils

White spots or patches may show on tonsils or around the mouth. The discoloration could also look like streaks. Some common symptoms include scratchiness and difficulty swallowing. Here are some other symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Painful swallowing
  • Throat discomfort
  • Stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Body aches and pains
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bad breath

Health Conditions Associated with White Spots on Tonsils

There are different health conditions associated with the white spots on the tonsils, as below:

1. White Spots on Tonsils, No Fever

There are times when tonsillitis does not produce a fever. Sometimes, tonsil stones only show the white spots on the throat and not other symptoms. Regardless if these conditions do not indicate all symptoms, it is still wise to consult a doctor.

2. White Spots on Tonsils, No pain

A viral infection or malignant growth could be the issue if the white spots do not cause pain. You do not need to worry about viral infections as they go away on its own.

3. White Spots on Tonsils, Not Strep

A negative test for strep throat could mean a different health concern or condition listed in this article. The doctor will have to run additional tests to find the cause of the spots.

4. White Spots on Tonsils, Allergies

Some seasonal allergies could prompt the white spots on throat due to post-nasal drip. Using common treatments for seasonal allergies may rid of the spots.

How to Get Rid of White Spots on Tonsils

Following are the common medications and home remedies that can help you get rid of the white spots on your tonsils.

1. For Infectious Mononucleosis

Your doctor may prescribe the anti-inflammatory medicines like corticosteroids for severe inflammation. You may also want to take the over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen. Having enough bed rest is the best home remedy for mono. Drink plenty of fluids, eat fresh, healthy food for faster recovery.

2. For Strep Throat

Your doctor may prescribe the antibiotics to treat the strep throat. It is also recommended to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, to lessen the swelling.

You should drink plenty of fluids to avoid the dehydration. Herbal teas are the best home remedies for strep throat. Adequate rest can promote faster recovery.

3. For Oral Thrush

Doctors prescribe the antifungal medications for oral thrush. To treat the oral thrush at home, gargle with salt water and rinse mouth with water. It will help you prevent the yeast from spreading beyond the mouth.

4. For Tonsil Stones

Treatment for tonsil stones is not necessary unless it makes discomfort. Your body naturally gets rid of these stones. Some home remedies include eating crackers or spraying salt water to remove the deposits. You can also use the cotton swab to remove the tonsil stones.

5. For Severe Inflammation

In the case of severe inflammation, your doctor may recommend removing the tonsils. It is when the inflammation presents difficulty with breathing. Removal of the tonsils is the last option and only if other treatments do not work.

Tonsillectomy is the name of this procedure. You may experience a sore throat for 1-2 weeks after the procedure.

Other common home treatments for white spots on tonsils include:

  • Gargling salt water for 10-15 seconds
  • Drinking warm, caffeine-free drinks, such as broth or herbal tea with honey
  • Avoiding cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and other pollutants
  • Using a humidifier to alleviate dry throat
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Eat smooth foods
  • Suck on lozenges
  • Avoid irritating foods, like chips, spicy foods, raw vegetables, and highly acidic items.
  • Limit drinking alcohol
  • Avoid smoking

When to Seek a Medical Help?

There are many reasons why you notice the white spots on the back of your throat. While there are some home remedies to treat most of the symptoms, you should visit the doctor to rule out the possibility of any severe health condition.

You may need to visit the doctor when you see the following signs:

  • The spots do not go away in 7 days
  • Tonsils are very painful
  • Difficulty swallowing

Immediate medical attention is needed if you experience difficulty breathing.

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Irene Entila

Irene is a health and fitness consultant based out of Albuquerque, NM. She was a personal trainer during the years of 2010-2013. She holds a Bachelors of Liberal Arts with a focus on creative writing from The Evergreen State College. She obtained her personal trainer license through Seattle Central College in 2010. Irene has been an athlete since childhood. She currently train and compete in ultra-marathon running and jiu jitsu. She started health writing in 2009 as a hobby through her personal blog. She believes that people can seek help from a trainer or trained profession to reach fitness and health goals. Though, people can learn a lot about them and promote self-sufficiency if they had affordable resources. By 2010, Irene started contributing to several health websites while completing her personal trainer certification and training for marathons. She saw how certain health variables affected her training and wanted to share this information with the public. Since then, Irene has written various articles about health and fitness featured on different magazines.