Adenoids and Tonsils (cont.)
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Tonsillitis and adenoids infection facts
- What are the tonsils and adenoids?
- What is the purpose of the tonsils and adenoids?
- What are the symptoms of tonsillitis or an adenoid infection?
- Is tonsillitis contagious?
- What are common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids?
- How are tonsillitis and adenoid infection diagnosed?
- How is tonsillitis and adenoid infection treated?
- When should the tonsils and/or adenoids be removed?
- Find a local Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor in your town
What are the tonsils and adenoids?
The tonsils and adenoids are composed of tissues that are similar to the lymph nodes or glands found in the neck or other parts of the body. Together, they are part of a ring of glandular tissue (Waldeyer's ring) encircling the back of the throat.
The tonsils are the two masses of tissue on either side of the back of the throat. Normal tonsils are usually about the same size and have the same pink color as the surrounding area. On their surfaces are little depressions, called crypts, which may appear deep and contain pus pockets or tonsil stones.
The adenoids are located high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate (the roof of the mouth) and unlike the tonsils, are not easily visible through the mouth. A tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy (commonly referred to as a T & A) are surgical procedures performed to remove the tonsils and adenoids.
What is the purpose of the tonsils and adenoids?
The tonsils and adenoids are thought to assist the body in its defense against incoming bacteria and viruses by helping the body form antibodies. However, this function may only be important during the first year of life. There is no evidence to support a significant role of the tonsils and adenoids in immunity. Medical studies have shown that children who have their tonsils and adenoids removed suffer no loss whatsoever in their future immunity to disease or ability to ward off infections.
What are the symptoms of tonsillitis or an adenoid infection?
The most prominent symptom of tonsillitis and adenoid infection is a sore throat. Other symptoms of tonsillitis and adenoid infection include:
- Bad breath
- Congestion and runny nose
- Swollen lymph nodes in front of the neck
- Red, swollen tonsils with patches of pus (white spots)
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Loss of voice or muffled voice
- Abdominal pain
- Coughing up blood
- If the adenoids are enlarged, breathing through the nose may be difficult
- Breathing through the mouth, especially in kids
- Noisy breathing in the day; snoring at night is often observed
- Voice may be nasal-sounding
When there is a sore throat and cold symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing, the cause is most likely a virus. Viral infection of the tonsils or adenoids usually resolves without treatment within 2 weeks.
Sore throat with a sudden mild fever without symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection may point to a bacterial infection. If these symptoms are present, see a doctor for diagnosis because of the risk of strep throat. Although strep throat will usually go away even without treatment, an untreated strep infection can lead to complications including rheumatic fever, which can permanently damage the heart.
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