Tonsil and Adenoid Conditions

The tonsils and adenoids, part of the lymphatic system, help protect you from infection by trapping germs that come in through your mouth and nose.

Sometimes your tonsils and adenoids become infected (called tonsillitis) causing a swollen and sore Adenoiditis and recurrent tonsillitis (sometimes referred to as adenotonsillar disease) are caused by chronic inflammation triggered by a persistent bacterial infection of the adenoids or tonsils.

Take this quiz about tonsils and adenoids.

 

Tonsil and Adenoid Topics

Tonsil Conditions

The tonsils are small, round pieces of tissue located in the back of the mouth. Tonsils are thought to help fight infections by producing antibodies.

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become inflamed from infection. The symptoms of tonsillitis vary greatly depending on the cause of the infection and can occur either suddenly or gradually.

The following are the most common symptoms of tonsillitis:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever (either a low-grade or high-grade fever)
  • Headache
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Not feeling well
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach aches
  • Painful swallowing
  • Visual redness or drainage in the throat

The symptoms of tonsillitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always see your otolaryngologist for a diagnosis.

Learn more about tonsils.

Adenoid Conditions

Adenoids are made up of lymph tissue and are located in the space about the soft roof the mouth. Adenoids may cause problems if they become enlarged or infected.

Hypertrophy of the Adenoids

Chronic or recurrent inflammation of the adenoids can result in hypertrophy (enlarged adenoids) making it hard to breathe and causing a sore throat or ear problems.

Adenoiditis

Adenoiditis is when the adenoids become inflamed often triggered by a persistent bacterial infection of the adenoids or tonsils.

What are the symptoms of adenoiditis, or enlarged adenoids?

The symptoms of adenoiditis vary greatly depending on the cause of the infection and can occur either suddenly or gradually. The following are the most common symptoms of adenoiditis.

  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Noisy breathing
  • Snoring
  • Nasal speech
  • Periods at night when breathing stops for a few seconds

The symptoms of adenoiditis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always see your otolaryngologist for a diagnosis.

Learn more about adenoids.

Nasal Obstruction

A nasal obstruction is anything that impedes the flow of air into and out of the nose. The obstruction may block one or both of the nasal passages.

If the nasal obstruction appears to coincide with a certain time of year, it may be caused by an allergy, such as to pollen. If the blockage appears to be on only one side of the nose, then an anatomical cause is more likely. Snoring is often a symptom of an anatomical cause for a nasal obstruction.

Although most cases of nasal obstruction are temporary (caused by sinusitis, allergies or overuse of nasal sprays), a blockage may also be caused by an anatomical factor, such as a deviated septum, nasal polyps or foreign objects.

Avoidance of an allergen, if the cause is allergic, can help alleviate symptoms. If the cause of the obstruction is anatomical, surgery is usually required.

Treatment for Tonsillitis and Adenoiditis

Medical Treatment

Antibiotics can be successfully used to treat infectious processes associated with adenotonsillar disease.

Surgical Treatment

  • Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy
    A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils. An adenoidectomy removes the adenoids. Often the adenoids are removed at the same time as the tonsils.
    Learn more about tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.
  • Laser Tonsil Ablation
    Laser tonsil ablation is a surgical removal of the hypertrophic tissue.
What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have a tonsil or adenoid condition and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced otolaryngologist are important to the successful outcome for patients with ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by otolaryngologist, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with tonsil or adenoid conditions. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay, patient-centered care and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care by collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community, with its diverse specialists, and state-of-the-art facilities.

 

Resources

Learn more about tonsils and adenoids in our health library.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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