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Tonsils & Adenoids: When Is Surgery Required?

The tonsils are the soft tissue masses located in the back of your throat. The adenoids are located in the upper part of the nasal cavity. Just like the lymph nodes found throughout the body, the tonsils and adenoids work together as part of the immune system. They continue to grow up until age 3 to 7 and start shrinking as you reach teenage years. Sometimes, they have been seen to completely disappear.

The tonsils and adenoids contain immune cells that produce antibodies to kill pathogens before they spread to the rest of your body. They trap pathogens, like bacteria and viruses, that enter the nose or mouth. The adenoids are covered in a layer of mucus and hair-like structures (cilia) to help push nasal mucus down the throat and into the stomach.

Sometimes, tonsils and adenoids can become enlarged or inflamed when they are fighting a pathogen, such as strep throat, mononucleosis, or the flu. These infections have been linked to tonsillitis, chronic inflammation of the tonsils, or peritonsillar abscesses, which occurs in extreme untreated cases of tonsillitis. However, some people may have enlarged tonsils and adenoids without an underlying condition. When a person experiences enlargement and inflammation in these structures there may be other symptoms present, such as:

Tonsil and adenoid enlargement and inflammation can also be caused by non-infectious agents, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Tonsil stones
  • Tonsil cancer

In some cases, doctors will recommend the total or partial removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids: a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. This procedure is meant to prevent recurring tonsillitis, blockages that cause sleep apnea, or tonsil cancer. This procedure requires general anesthesia and is done on an outpatient basis. After surgery, you will be required to eat soft, cold foods like ice cream or yogurt. You may have some pain and inflammation for up to two weeks which can be alleviated with medication. While the tonsils and adenoids are part of your body’s immune defense, their removal usually has no impact on your immune health.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, Dr. Marc Dean is here to help you! Call the Ear & Sinus Institute at (817) 406-1581 or schedule a consultation online.

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