Can a Tonsillectomy Help My Psoriasis?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to develop too quickly. Cells accumulate on the surface of your skin because cell turnover is so fast. You then develop thick patches of red, rough skin. You can recognize psoriasis by the silvery scales.

You’re most likely to have these patches on your elbows and knees, but they can appear anywhere on your body, including your scalp, inside your mouth, or around your genitals. These areas can itch or become sore. If you have a lot of active patches, it can be very uncomfortable.

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Psoriasis is a chronic disease and there is no cure. However, there are effective treatments to help you manage it.

What is a tonsillectomy, and why is it needed?

The tonsils are located in the back of your throat. They are part of your immune system. Your tonsils guard your body from the germs that come in through your mouth.

Sometimes the tonsils can become infected. This is a condition called tonsillitis. Inflamed tonsils can make it hard to breathe and swallow, which can interfere with sleep. Tonsils can also cause sore throats and bad breath.

If you get tonsillitis often it can become a quality of life issue. Your doctor may suggest tonsillectomy, or the surgical removal of the tonsils if other prevention methods don’t work. Tonsillectomy is more common in children, but adults can have their tonsils removed, too.

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The surgery is done under general anesthesia and typically takes 30 to 60 minutes. There are a few different techniques — one is cauterization. Or, your surgeon may use a traditional scalpel, plus stitches or cauterization to stop the bleeding and close the wound.

Following either procedure, your throat will be sore for several days. Most people feel better within a few days to two weeks. You should be completely healed in three to four weeks.

What are the benefits and risks of tonsillectomy?

After having your tonsils removed, you might find you have fewer (and less severe) throat infections. It might be easier to breathe and swallow and improve your sleep.

There are risks to any surgery. Most people recover from a tonsillectomy without a problem. But risks include swelling, bleeding, and infection. You can also have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia.

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About 20 percent of adult tonsillectomy patients experience a complication. Ten percent of this group end up at the emergency room. And about 1.5 percent are admitted within two weeks of a tonsillectomy. The reasons range from postoperative hemorrhage and dehydration, to ear, nose, or throat pain.

What’s the connection between tonsils and psoriasis?

Most of the studies used in the review were case reports, retrospective studies, and observational studies. Only one was a randomized controlled trial. That small study included 29 people with psoriasis, and only 15 had had tonsillectomies. Of those, 13 had a 30 to 90 percent improvement in psoriasis symptoms.

A lot more research is needed before doctors can determine who might benefit from this approach, and if it will helpful in the long term. There’s not enough data to make the case at this time.

How should psoriasis be treated?

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition, so it’s vital that you learn all your treatment options. There are several ways of approaching treatment. It may take some experimentation to find the best treatment for you. Your doctor will probably start by prescribing topical ointments to slow skin cell turnover and ease symptoms.

Light therapy is another common treatment for psoriasis. It’s sometimes paired with a medication that makes your skin more sensitive to light. Oral drugs and injectable medicines can also be used to treat psoriasis. These are called systemic treatments.

You may have to adjust some of these treatments as your psoriasis symptoms change. If you have both psoriasis and frequent bouts of tonsillitis, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

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