What do you mean by Tonsils and Adenoids?
Tonsils are the two round lumps in the back of your throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (referred to as your soft palate). They are not visible through the mouth or nose without special instruments.
Tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system and help protect the body from disease. They “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter through the mouth or nose. Unfortunately, sometimes they can get infected or cause problems by being too large.
What causes Tonsillitis and adenoiditis?
Tonsils and adenoids can become enlarged because they become infected with a virus or bacteria that cause throat infections (sore throat).
If enlarged, tonsils sometimes interfere with breathing or swallowing, and adenoids may block the nose or the Eustachian tubes that connect the back of the throat to the ears. Usually, tonsils and adenoids return to normal size once the infection is over. Sometimes they remain enlarged, particularly in children who have had frequent or chronic infections. Although extremely rare, cancer sometimes causes enlarged tonsils or adenoids in children.
Symptoms/Signs of active Tonsillitis and adenoiditis
- Swelling of the tonsils
- More Red than normal tonsils
- Change in the voice
- Sore throat sometimes accompanied by ear pain
- Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
- Bad breath
- It may be hard to breathe through the nose, or cause difficulty while sleeping.
- Chronic runny nose
- Noisy breathing during the day
- Recurrent ear infections
- Snoring at night
- Restlessness during sleep, or pauses in breathing for a few seconds at night
Your ENT Surgeon will ask about problems of the ear, nose, and throat, and examine the head and neck. They may use a small mirror or a flexible lighted instrument to see these areas. Other methods used to check tonsils and adenoids are:
Throat cultures or strep tests to identify infections in the throat
- A small, flexible scope to visualize the size of the adenoids; an X-ray may also be ordered
- Blood tests to diagnose infections such as mononucleosis
- Sleep study, or polysomnogram, to help decide whether sleep apnea is present and if sleep disturbance may be due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids
Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by streptococcus, are first treated with antibiotics. Tonsillectomy, removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy), can be an option when infections return frequently even after antibiotic therapy or there is difficulty breathing with the enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids.
Frequent infections of the adenoids can affect other areas such as the ear’s passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear, known as the Eustachian tube. This can lead to frequent ear infections and collection of fluid in the middle ear that may cause temporary hearing loss. Removal of the adenoids may help some children with chronic earaches accompanied by fluid in the middle ear (called otitis media with effusion).
In adults, the possibility of cancer or a tumor may be another reason for removing the tonsils and adenoids. In some patients, especially those with infectious mononucleosis, severe enlargement may obstruct the airway. For those patients, treatment with steroids (e.g., prednisone) is sometimes helpful.