Have you ever felt a small ball-like structure on one of either side of your neck? Have you ever felt intense pain in your throat and difficulty in swallowing? Have you ever felt that something is choking in your neck like something is there? 

These are a few symptoms that you might have a tonsil cyst in your throat. A cyst on one of your tonsils could be one of the many conditions for a cyst. Tonsil cyst is a usual occurrence that can be seen in any person of any age group. 

What is tonsil cyst?

To understand better, tonsil cysts are oval-shaped pads located at the back of your throat on right and left side. They are covered with pink mucous membranes and defend viruses and bacterias to enter the body through the mouth. 

It is part of our immune system. Tonsils also contain a type of white blood cell that helps the body to fight illness. These tonsils get swollen and form a hard cyst in the throat. It can be quite painful and sore. A cyst can be because of many reasons which we will study further. 

What does a cyst on your tonsil mean?

If you feel a cyst on one of your tonsils then could be a case of peritonsillar abscess. It is a type of bacterial throat infection that can form a pocket of puss near your tonsil. It can be quite painful and if not treated at the right time, the situation can get worst. 

A cyst in the tonsil area must be taken seriously as it is often a complication of tonsillitis or mononucleosis. Cyst and abscess are similar but different at the same time. We will know more about it further in the article. 

Possible reasons for a tonsil cyst

If you have a swollen and hurtful throat the following could be the possible reason for that:

  • Tonsillitis: This condition makes the tonsils swell which is sometimes mistaken for a cyst. The tonsils have yellow or white patches coating on it.
  • Strep throat: This is a throat infection that includes swollen tonsils with white patches.
  • Infectious mononucleosis: This is a viral infection and swollen throat is one of its other symptoms.
  • Tonsil stones: This is nothing but calcium deposit caused by a build-up of food particles, bacteria, or mucus.

Cyst on one side of the tonsil

Cyst on one side could be a peritonsillar abscess which is a form of bacterial infection that can form pus near one of your tonsil. The cyst and abscess are two different conditions with almost the same symptoms. If a cyst becomes infected it turns into an abscess. Young adults are most commonly infected by a peritonsillar abscess. 

Symptoms of an abscess include tonsil cyst, fever, fatigue, headache, and intense pain in the throat. 

Treatment of peritonsillar abscess includes removing the puss along with antibiotics, sufficient fluids and pain killers. Steroids may also be helpful in this situation.

Difference between a cyst and abscess

While cyst is a sac enclosed by distinct abnormal cells, an abscess is a puss-filled infection caused by bacteria or fungus. The main difference between the two is that a cyst grows slowly and isn’t usually painful unless it becomes large. 

But unlikely an abscess is painful, irritated, often red and swollen and this can cause symptoms to other places on the body too. The treatment of both abscess and cyst is different from one another. 

Some cyst may require no treatment at all but the ones causing pain and discomfort may need removal. No matter whether it is a cyst or a tonsil, it needs to be checked by a specialist.

Is tonsil cyst common?

Minor tonsil cysts are normal and can happen to anyone from children to old people. These cysts could be because of infection or some other virus. But cancerous tonsil cyst is not that common and are a major cause of concern. 

The research revealed that the main cause of cancerous tonsil cyst is tobacco, alcohol, and smoking. So by limiting the intake of these toxic substances you can limit the cases of tonsil cancer. 

Is tonsil cyst cancerous?

In some unlucky cases, tonsil cyst could be cancerous. It is a rare possibility that the cyst in the tonsils is cancerous and it is diagnosed in the later stage. It can cause severe difficulty in swallowing food and a sensation that something is caught in the throat. 

The symptoms of tonsil cancer include:

  • Persistent sore throat
  • White or red patch on the tonsil
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Persistent earache
  • Blood in saliva
  • Mouth pain
  • Bad breath
checkup for tonsil cyst

Following re a few causes of tonsil cancer:

  • People who eat tobacco, take a lot of alcohol or smoke are at the highest risk for tonsil cancer.
  • Exposure to the human papillomavirus
  • Organ transplant recipients
  • People with immunodeficiency virus disease

Treatment of tonsil cancer usually includes surgery for cancer removal. In some cases, radiation and chemotherapy are also recommended by the doctors. 

Treatment for tonsil cyst

A person having tonsil cyst cannot treat it at home and he/she needs professional help. Contact your doctor and know about the treatment in your case. The treatment solely depends upon how severe your case is and also how well you will react to antibiotics. 

The first step would be to treat the cyst with antibiotic medicines if it is not cancerous. If after the course, the cyst did not dissolve, then the doctor would remove the pus from the tonsils to help it heal. A minor surgery would help you to get rid of the cyst.


Sometimes the cyst in the tonsil can get complicated. With more complicated situations, the treatment gets complicated too. 

Following are some of the complications that may arise with the tonsil cyst:

  • A blocked airway/ difficulty in breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Infection in the jaw, neck or chest
  • Bacteria infection in the blood called sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Endocarditis, an infection in the inner lining of the heart
treatment for tonsil cyst

It is advisable to not delay the treatment of tonsil cyst as the situation can get worse. Do not try to deal with it using home remedies. A consultation with an ENT specialist is a must. Be attentive and do not ignore if you have any discomfort in your body