New Health Guide

One Tonsil Bigger Than the Other

Dec 21, 2015

Many people have experienced the swelling of the tonsils, which occurs when infection has taken hold. Not everyone, however, is aware of exactly what the tonsils are. The tonsils are located at the back of the throat and are made up of soft tissue and filled with pits, or crypts. The tonsils can be different sizes in different people. They are part of the lymphatic system and help fight infection for people. This is part of the reason they swell when infection occurs.

Is It Normal to Have One Tonsil Bigger Than the Other?

It depends.

Provided the tonsils have always been different sizes, this could be the normal for you. Some people have one foot slightly bigger than the other, which is a similar case.

But, if you are noticing signs such as redness, it could indicate an infection. If only one of your tonsils is infected, then it would make sense that one is larger than the other.

The final possibility is cancer, if there is a lump on the tonsil that stays for a significant length of time, if there is soreness in the area or you have trouble chewing or swallowing due to having one tonsil bigger than the other.

Conditions that Can Cause One Tonsil to Be Bigger than the Other

1. Tonsillitis

The two tonsils are located in the back of the throat as a defense mechanism against potential infections or illness. They work to prevent that infection from spreading further into the body. With this in mind, the tonsils can become infected as they fight the illness. This is a condition known as tonsillitis.


The following are possible symptoms. You do not have to have them all at once to be suffering from tonsillitis. Those symptoms include:

  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Ear aches
  • Stomach aches
  • Tenderness in the area of the jaw and neck
  • Red and/or swollen tonsils
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sore throat, chills, headaches or a stiff neck


When it comes to tonsillitis, it depends on the severity what treatments are available.

  • If it is caused by a virus, it is another illness like a cold that simply must be endured.
  • Meanwhile, tonsillitis caused by bacteria may need to be treated with antibiotics.
  • When people suffer from tonsillitis on numerous occasions, it may be recommended that they have a tonsillectomy, which is a removal of the tonsils. If complications are caused by cases of tonsillitis, the tonsillectomy is also a necessary treatment.

2. Tonsil Stones

There are various small gaps and nooks on the tonsils. These can become filled with bacteria and various other materials, like dead cells. If this occurs, the materials can solidify into a white formation and calcifies. These are called tonsil stones. This happens most often when people suffer from repeated episodes of tonsillitis.


  • Sore throat (particularly in a specific area)
  • Swelling of one or both of the tonsils due to the infection or stone
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • White debris visible on the tonsils (this is not always true)
  • Bad breath


  • For tonsil stones that do not cause pain or other issues, there is no treatment necessary.
  • Meanwhile, when the stones do cause discomfort, some people opt for dislodging the stones themselves. This is usually done with the help of swabs or toothpicks.
  • Gargling with warm salt water helps ease the pain of a sore throat associated with tonsil stones, and there are antibiotics that may be helpful.
  • For large tonsil stones, it may be necessary to visit a surgeon to have them removed.

3. Tonsil Cancer

If the cells on the outside of the tonsils begin to grow abnormally and at increased rates, it could be tonsil cancer. This can start in the cells that line the surface of the mouth and spread. They can also form a mass of cells or spread into the tonsils or to other areas of the body.


When it comes to having one tonsil bigger than the other, cancer is obviously the diagnosis you want to avoid. If any of these symptoms are present, it is a good idea to consult a doctor to determine exactly what you are dealing with.Those symptoms are:

  • Ear pain
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • A lump in the neck
  • Difficulty when you attempt to open your mouth
  • A sore throat on one side that remains even after treatment
  • A sore or lump on the tonsil that does not go away

Stages of the Cancer

When it comes to cancer, the stages are based on the advancement of the cells.

  • In Stage I, the cancer is small, typically not larger than a peanut. It has not yet metastasized.
  • For Stage II, the cancer has not yet metastasized. It can be between the size of a peanut and a walnut.
  • In Stage III, the cancer is larger than a walnut and may have spread to a lymph node or a gland. This is usually on the same side of the neck as the cancer.
  • Stage IV cancer may be heavily spread through the lymph glands. It may also have spread to numerous other areas within the body, typically those near the tonsils.


When it begins with one tonsil bigger than the other and ends in a diagnosis of tonsil cancer, there are treatments available to help you fight the cancer.

  • For stage I and stage II, radiation may be effective in getting rid of the cancer.
  • For stage III and stage IV, surgery or a combination of radiation, drugs and surgery may be necessary to fight the cancer.