Monday, March 13, 2006

Stinkballs

It has been amusing me for some time how posts which I do not make can attract so many more comments than my usual ones do. (Am I that boring?) Guess which they were!

I had my Data Analysis 1 exam today. Went pretty well, I think. Should be sufficient to balance my estimated low score for the Developmental Psychology module. I really should have put in more effort into that, especially since the bulk of my degree will be content-based, rather than stats-based.

Funnily (and scarily) I'd initially mixed the dates of the two examinations, so I thought it was dev today. Luckily for me, a fortuitous sequence of events involving egg craving, and a certain girl who likes randomly asking questions, led to the correction of this misconception. About 16 hours before the paper.

In other news, I've just found out what the white stinkballs I sometimes cough up (usually prior to a throat infection, or sometimes after) are. Tonsilloliths (tonsil stones)! After coughing up yet another one recently (and now I feel a fever coming on soon), I decided to google for it and try to figure out what on earth it was.

These things are called tonsilloliths ("tonsil stones.") You have described them perfectly. They are typically white, or whitish-yellow, irregularly-shaped, foul-smelling, and usually smaller than a pea. The tissue lining the tonsils (oral mucosa) is fairly sensitive, so people with this problem often report that they feel an irritation in the back of their throat and are able to pick these critters out of their tonsils.

Like your skin, oral mucosa sheds continuously. The dead cells become incorporated in your saliva and then you swallow them. Yum! One more anatomical fact that you need to know: the surface of your tonsils is pockmarked with deep pits, appropriately called "crypts" (since dead stuff accumulates in these pits.) Oral mucosa lines the crypts. Under normal circumstances, as this mucosa sheds, the dead cells leave the crypts and are swallowed. In some unlucky people, like you and your sister, the dead cells accumulate and glom together to form hard little balls. All of this dead stuff makes great food for bacteria, and of course your oral cavity is colonized by all kinds of bacteria. Consequently, the tonsilloliths are ripe with bacteria. This accounts for the smell.

Apparently some people get these all the time, which is way more unfortunate than I am, but the fact that no one else seems to know what the heck they are indicates that I'm not particularly lucky myself. Medical and dentistry students, I bet you never knew of them before this!

And in case you were wondering what the heck they looked like, here's some Korean site with pictures on it. Be warned, though, it doesn't look particularly pleasant. But I'm guessing most of you are going to ignore this warning and look at it anyway, then later come and blame me for linking to gross pictures.

Oh well.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

yuck!!! that's gross! never knew there was such a thing. fine time to read about it, since i'm sick now.
don't dare look at the pictures.

amy

vanilla sister said...

it was me, actually, who asked the random questions about exam dates. haha.

the man said...

....Louis... help...me...me...fail...exam.... ugh.... *dies*.

the man said...

ops should have been "..Louis..help..me...me..not..to...fail...
exam....ugh...*dies*"

P said...

GASP. PLEASE put a warning sign next to your link. its so squeamishly awful! and hey, does no one else find this bothersome...get it checked out will you! wiki says its not dangerous but hey, err on the side of caution and maybe get it checked out by a professional...

jm. said...

The pictures are absolutely revolting. And yet, somehow, I was riveted. They're seared into my retinas.

I observe in the bottom left picture that the tonsilloliths have almostly completely obscured the throat. Wow.

the man said...

I'M IN HYSTERIA! ONE MORE HOUR AND I AM A FREE MAN! THEY CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY MY FREEDOM MUAHAHAHHAHAHA ..... *studies*