Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time. Although you can see your tonsils by taking a mirror and looking in your throat, adenoids aren't directly visible. Doctors use a special scope to get a peek at the adenoids, and sometimes will order a head X-ray for a better idea of their size.
So, what are adenoids exactly? They're a mass of tissue, located in the passage that connects the back of the nasal cavity to the throat. Adenoids — which are different from the tonsils — filter out bacteria and viruses entering through the nose and produce antibodies to help the body fight infections.
Adenoids begin to shrink after about 5 years of age. They often practically disappear by the time you're a teen.
Because adenoids trap germs that enter the body, adenoid tissue sometimes temporarily swells as it tries to fight off an infection.
Symptoms associated with enlarged adenoids include:
If your doctor thinks you have enlarged adenoids, he or she might:
If an infection is suspected, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.
A doctor may recommend surgical removal of enlarged or infected adenoids if they're bothersome and medicine is not controlling the problem (this procedure is called an adenoidectomy).
Surgery may be recommended if a person experiences one or more of the following:
Having adenoids removed is especially important when repeated infections lead to sinus and ear infections. Badly swollen adenoids can interfere with the ability of the body to ventilate the middle ears. This can sometimes lead to infections or temporary hearing loss. Therefore, people whose infected adenoids cause frequent earaches and fluid buildup may need to get an adenoidectomy at the same time as ear tube surgery.
And although adenoids can be taken out without the tonsils, if someone has tonsil problems, the tonsils may need to be removed at the same time.
During an adenoidectomy:
After an adenoidectomy, the patient will wake up in the recovery area. In most cases, a person can go home the same day of the surgery.
The typical recuperation after an adenoidectomy often involves several days of pain and discomfort.
In less than a week after surgery, everything should return to normal. The area where the adenoids were will be left to heal naturally, which means there are no stitches to worry about.
Reviewed by: Steven P. Cook, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013
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