Tonsils and Adenoids

Tonsils and adenoids are a collection of lymphoid tissue that assist in the body’s ability to fight infection. The tonsils are located on both sides of the back of the throat and the adenoids are located higher and further back than the tonsils. Tonsils and adenoids can often become enlarged, especially in children, this occurs when tonsils and adenoids become infected with bacteria that cause pharyngitis (sore throat). When this occurs, the result is a blockage of the nasal passages causing congestion and other associated problems that can lead to sinusitis.

What is the function of the tonsils and adenoids?

Both the tonsils and the adenoids function as a very important part of the immune system. It is thought in the medical community that tonsils and adenoids help the body by creating antibodies to viruses and bacteria that enter the body through the mouth and nose. However, this function may only be useful in children for the first year of life. Children who have undergone the surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and adenoids (adenoidectomy) or both (T&A) do not appear to suffer any loss in their future immunity to disease or the ability to ward off infection.

What are the common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids?

Common problems associated with the tonsils and adenoids are chronic or recurrent infections and enlargement such as:

  • Acute or Chronic tonsillitis, which is an infection of the tonsils caused by one of several types of bacteria or viruses;
  • Strep throat (tonsillitis);
  • Chronic or recurring ear infections;
  • Acute mononucleosis or Epstein-Barr virus;
  • Peritonsillar abscess (a collection of pus behind the tonsils the pushes upon the tonsils);
  • Enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids;
  • Sleep apnea

When should medical treatment be sought?

Medical treatment should be immediately sought if an individual suspects problems with tonsils and adenoids, including:

  • Redder than normal tonsils;
  • A white or yellow coating on the tonsils;
  • A slight change in the voice (due to swelling);
  • Sore throat;
  • Pain during swallowing;
  • Swollen glands in the neck;
  • Fever;
  • Bad breath;
  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose;
  • Nasal sound to speech;
  • Noisy breathing;
  • Significant snoring at night;
  • Breathing stops for a few seconds at night (sleep apnea).

What is the treatment for problems with the tonsils and adenoids?

There are a variety of treatments for problems with the tonsils and adenoids depending on the specific problem affecting the region. Treatment can include:

Antibiotic treatment for problems such as strep throat and some types of ear infection;

Surgical procedure such as T&A

Who is qualified to treat problems with the tonsils and adenoids?

A specialized professional, preferably an otolaryngologist with extensive sinus experience, is necessary to evaluate and diagnose tonsil and adenoid problems which may lead to chronic or acute sinusitis. The sinus-specialty otolaryngologists of The Sinus Institute at CEI have over 35 years of experience treating sinusitis in all of its forms using both medical treatments and cutting edge surgery options. Click here to make an appointment.