Tonsils and Adenoids are similar to lymph nodes (sometimes erroneously called “glands”) in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are two round lumps in the back of the throat on each side of the tongue. Adenoids are high in the back of the throat behind the palate, and are not normally visible through the mouth. Both tonsils and adenoids “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter the mouth or nose and are part of the immune system. Sometimes however, they can do more harm than good.
The two most common problems are:
- Infection (either recurring infections requiring antibiotics, or a chronic smoldering infection that never really goes away)
- Significant enlargement that causes problems with obstruction (nasal obstruction, mouth-breathing, snoring, sleep apnea, and/or swallowing problems)
Other problems with the tonsils which may require treatment:
- Abscess around the tonsil (peritonsillar abscess)
- Cancer or suspected cancer of the tonsil
- Tonsilloliths (Tonsil stones) – collections of white debris within pockets of the tonsils that is foul-smelling and can cause bad breath and chronic irritation
Surgery (removing the tonsils and/or adenoids) is recommended when the above problems are excessive or not controlled with conservative medical management.