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Tonsilloliths, my experience

 

Written in Chinese by Danny

Translated and edited by Joe Hing Kwok Chu

Copy editing Joanna Weichert

 

One day during November, 2006,  I suddenly  became weak and  dizzy. My  head ached, and my throat became painfully swollen. I went to a  large  hospital to see an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. Upon examination,  the white blood cell count was high. I thought I had caught a flu. I went home and took the prescribed antibiotic.  After I had rested for about a week, the symptoms had gradually reduced but the sore throat had not improved.


Taking antihistamines made my throat drier and very uncomfortable. For more than two weeks I still thought the virus had not been healed. So I went to see the ENT again.  After careful inspection he simply said: "Your throat is inflamed. Drink water, and do not eat spicy food. Then he prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug.  It did not work.

 

Then I went to a famous ENT hospital in Taipei. There were more than 300 patients registered ahead of me.(It must be a very famous hospital.) After having nose endoscopy and X-ray, this examination, that examination, and all the needed exams were performed. The doctor said: "Chronic pharyngolaryngitis."  He prescribed another anti-inflammatory drug.

 

I went to many other large hospitals. All prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine. After taking them my throat became even more uncomfortable and drier.  Now I have enough of those drugs to open a wholesale drug store!
 

When I asked some of the ENT doctors for an explanation for my condition,  they all said I was thinking too much. It was obvious that it was pharynx and larynx inflammation.  They said that I obviously had mood problems. They wanted to prescribe mood medication.

Since Western medicine had failed me, I went looking for help from traditional Chinese medicine. The pain was agonizing, and I was desperate for some relief.

Finally my father introduced me to a traditional Chinese doctor in Taipei for examination. He had many patients every day. He is quite careful and kind. After examination he give me a traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic result, like" lacking in vital energy, " "blood stasis" and so on. Every week besides taking the traditional Chinese medicine, I also had acupuncture, moxibustion, infrared, and electrical treatments.

Months passed. Although the throat dryness and pain  were still present, my body was healthier, and I had more energy.

My family members wanted me to go outside to do some outdoor work and to relax. I even started to change my attitude on life, reading many books on Buddhist studies, but that kind of feeling of pain still was waiting for the opportunity to act up, regardless of whether I paid no attention to it or tried to forget it. That feeling was like a ghost spirit in hiding, that I could not see but knew it was there, waiting to attack.

More than seven more months have passed by. Should I continue the treatment or have a tonsillectomy?

I was thinking about that this is just how my life would be, with all this pain. After all, all the answers from the ENTs were "chronic pharyngolaryngitis."  Some people told me  to simply remove the tonsils and that would solve it all. I actually considered that.

After having this tonsillectomy idea, again through a relative's introduction,  I went to the city of Gaoxiong  to the Righteousness Big Hospital to have a complete physical examination. This relative's family member was also a doctor, and his colleague is a Great Righteousness  Hospital ENT doctor. He is very famous in that hospital.  At first he did a lot of examinations, including a CT scan above the neck, during which he said that there was no abnormal condition there. Other inspections were normal. All lab data were normal.

I told him that I visited almost all the large hospitals in Taipei and all the famous ENT clinics, and all of them said the same thing: chronic tonsillitis. I also emphasized that I did not have mood problem. This doctor pondered a little and used a mirror to check once more. Then he suddenly, using a tissue paper, pressed down on my tongue and asked me to open my mouth wider. Then he using the other hand, reached inside and squeezed on my tonsil. That was very uncomfortable.  It caused all my tears to gush out.

 A foreign thing with a strange foul smell was being squeezed out. Was this a tonsil stone?

Suddenly my mouth filled with a strange foul taste and then I felt an object fall on my tongue. As the doctor took it out with the clip and looked at it, I saw a creamy white object the size of a shelled peanut.

I was in shock and asked: " What is that?"

"That is a tonsil stone."  The doctor said.

Then he squeezed on the other side, and out came another piece of stone. It was the same size as the other one but it was soft and very stinky, almost smelling like the scrapings of the coating of a dirty tongue when being rubbed between the fingers. Suddenly my  throat became relaxed as if a rotten tooth had been extracted. The doctor applied some iodine tincture on the tonsils. He did not prescribe any anti-inflammatory drug.

"Rinse your mouth and pay attention to your oral hygiene" he said.

He told me that many people have tonsil stones and they fall out by themselves. Large ones like these have to be extracted. Large ones that are stuck in the "crypts" (hidden recess areas) can contribute to the continuous inflammation.

Most doctors have seen so many simple throat inflammations and forget to inspect the tonsils, especially the crypts. No wonder so much anti-inflammatory medicine was being prescribed and it did not help!

At first I thought after removing the stones, everything would be fine. After two weeks, my throat started to feel weird. The familiar odor started to come out again. I used a small flashlight to look at my tonsils and used my other hand to open the hidden crevice. There I saw a small piece of a milky white substance hidden inside the crypt.
I used a long cotton swab to pry at it gently.  Instead of getting it out,I pushed it deeper. A small piece broke off accidentally and the familiar foul smell of the tonsil stone appeared.

Early the next morning, my father recommended to me a well-known otolaryngologist (ENT) in Da'an area.  I went to see him and  explained to this Doctor Liao that I had tonsil stones and wanted them to be removed.

I used my hand to spread open the cover of the tonsil recess. The cover of the crypt area was like a web.  The doctor used a vacuum suction tool and sucked it out. The size of the stone was like the previous ones but not as brown.

Dr. Liao told me that people who usually get tonsil stones generally have the following characteristics:

  1. chronic inflammation of the tonsils or repeatedly have influenza and sore throat

  2. unclean oral cavities, especially do not rinse the mouth after meals

  3. diet of stimulating, deep fat fried food

  4. irregular working schedule and always work deep into the night

The first item is of prime importance.  Because of chronic inflammation, the hidden crypts become deeper and enhance the chances of building up the stones. Many people think it is the food residues that cause the stone. Not really true. It is the metabolites of the inflammation of the tonsils that form the stones. Because the crypts are too deep, normal rinsing cannot get rid of them.

Can tonsillolith be cured?

A few months after that, stones kept forming continually. On average, every one or two weeks I had to go to see Doctor Liao to remove the stones. Sometimes he extracted 2 or 3 stones of different sizes, but they all had the same foul smell.

I gradually became accustomed to self- examination of the tonsil to see if there were any stones. I was tired of going to the clinic. I wanted to have my own vacuum suction equipment at home. I surfed the internet to investigate the vacuum equipments. To my dismay, almost 90% of them were sexual tools!  I gave up.

Doctor Liao also told me that there are many indentations in the tonsils. Inflammations can cause them to deepen.   Only by maintaining one's health, they can gradually become normal-sized and less likely to form stones. Iit would take time.

I did some research and investigated a large amount of information. I discovered that most people with tonsil stones end up with removal of the tonsils. In fact many physicians suggest that removal of the tonsil glands is the best method, especially for those with chronic inflammation of the tonsils and with tonsilloliths. But I believe that the human body has the ability to repair itself. There must be methods to solve the tonsil stones problem.

I think beside the four factors mentioned by Dr. Liao, there must be other causes because my stones form at a rate of once every 2 weeks or twice every week. The rate of stone formation is not stable.  I suddenly thought: can chronic inflammation be related to food allergy?

I learn about my food anaphylactogen!

I remembered that when I was studying in the U.S. I had sinus inflammation. I did not know at that time milk is my anaphylactogen, and I used to drink milk like drinking water. This resulted in the continuous inflammation of my nasal sinus,and it could not be cured. It lingered for about a year; then I discovered that I should not drink milk.

Now, I thought that my tonsil stones might be related to anaphylactogens. I went to Taipei and went to the Harvard Health Examination Center to check what were my food anaphylactogens-- to see what else am I allergic to besides cow's milk.

When I saw the report, I was a little nervous. I hoped that my anaphylactogens would not turn out to be the food that I really like to eat (usually they are). The result is that the first anapylactogen is milk products and egg products. The index of these is maxed out, meaning it could not be estimated how serious they are. The rest of the food listed were OK.  Only milk products and egg products were extra serious. Actually I do not drink milk but I often consumed milk products and eggs. I usually ate cheese with eggs.

I started to try not to touch milk and egg types of food. Strangely, my tonsils used to have stones every one or two weeks but now only once in more than one month. I jokingly said to Dr. Liao that eating less milk products would lessen the chance of stone forming. (at that time in mainland China there were toxic milk incidences).

Actually,my last stone forming was more than 2 months ago. As of this writing I have not found any new tonsil stones. So the body is gradually repairing itself if I do not eat food that can promote inflammation for the body. Tonsils are organs that contain many lymph nodes. Besides antibiotic and antiviral effects, they are the first to react to substances that are harmful to the body. It looks like stones forming is the warning of the tonsils.Maybe if we had removed the tonsils without finding the causes,  I would have continued to eat food that promotes inflammation for the body and it may have induced other strange sicknesses.

Thanks to the old grand dad of heaven[1] that I had the opportunity to find the source of my problem!

Epilogue--Days to avoid tonsil stones

Every body, because of the differebt body types, can have different anaphylactogens. Actually I asked the physicians in the Health Examination Center about this. They found in many cases, the anaphylactogens are the food that the patients like most. But in the list of foods that are anaphylactogens, milk products and eggs affect the most people.

If we eat less of the food that may cause allergy and inflammation, we can have more energy and life force and will not have any strange illness. When our bodies put out warning signals, we must find out the causes. Just treating the symptoms will not solve the problems. To speak the truth, the patients should not put all their expectations on the physicians. They must understand and investigate about their own bodies. Then their knowledge can help us  live healthy lives and also can help the people around us to avoid miseries.

It is right if we have a cold or influenza we have to see our physicians to treat us, and rest properly. We must not let the sicknesses linger too long and make the tonsil crypts  get deeper and create the causes of stones forming. The above is my real life stone forming experiences. I am sharing with everybody.

Translator's Note:

Otolaryngologist: an ear, nose, throat specialist (ENT).

Pharyngolaryngitis: inflammation of the pharynx and the larynx

Pharynx is the section of the alimentary canal that extends from the mouth and nasal cavities to the larynx, where it becomes continuous with the esophagus. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Larynx is the part of the respiratory tract between the pharynx and the trachea, having walls of cartilage and muscle and containing the vocal cords enveloped in folds of mucous membrane. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Removing tonsils from adults can be complicated, and the risk is much higher than from children.

[1] "Thanks to Old grand dad of heaven" is like western expression of "Thank God". Old used in addressing some one means "honorable".

Back to treatment of tonsil stones.

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Last update: Dec 28, 2014; 3:50 pm LAH