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Tonsils

Tonsillectomy

What are tonsils and why do I have them?

Tonsils are fleshy masses of lymphatic tissue that help fight off illness and infection. The tonsils are located on both sides of the throat and in the back of the throat, behind the nose. They are part of our lymphatic system and, in their healthy state, produce antibodies to battle bacteria that enter through the mouth and nose.

Why do mine hurt?

Tonsils help the body fight infection by sampling germs that enter our bodies through the nose and mouth when we breathe. Sometimes, the tonsils themselves can become infected, which leads to redness and inflammation. When the tonsils are inflamed, swallowing can become very painful.

Why do we have them taken out?

Tonsils are removed for two main reasons: recurrent infection and tonsillar hypertrophy (enlarged tonsils). Tonsillar infection leads to inflammation and swelling (tonsillitis), which can be very painful. A patient who develops tonsillitis repeatedly in a relatively short amount of time is said to have recurrent tonsillitis. To treat recurrent tonsillitis, doctors may consider removing the tonsils. Enlarged tonsils, by contrast, are typically not painful, but in some cases they can block the throat or restrict airflow during breathing.

Is it common for people to have their tonsils taken out?

Tonsillectomy is one of the most commonly performed procedures today. Approximately 600,000 adult and pediatric tonsillectomies are performed annually in the US.*

*Noordzij JP, Affleck BD. COBLATION versus unipolar electrocautery tonsillectomy: a prospective, randomized, single-blind study in adult patients. Laryngoscope 2006;116(8):1303-9.


All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

All materials copyright © 2019 Smith & Nephew, All Rights Reserved.

Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids

What are Enlarged Tonsils?

Enlarged tonsils (also called tonsillar hypertrophy) can be a chronic or temporary condition caused by a number of different factors including infection. Chronic hypertrophy can sometimes interfere with normal breathing, nasal sinus drainage, sleeping, swallowing and speaking. Tonsillitis is the term used to describe repeated cases of tonsillar infection. Doctors will often ask patients if they suffer from conditions such as behavioral or performance issues. These issues may be caused by enlarged tonsils. In addition to blocking the throat, enlarged tonsils may interfere with normal breathing, nasal sinus drainage, sleeping, swallowing and speaking. In such cases, doctors may suggest removal of the enlarged tonsils.

Diagnosing Enlarged Tonsils

Children and adults should see a doctor if they're having symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils. The doctor will most likely look down the throat using a mirror and may also take a culture from the throat to test for strep throat or other infection. The doctor will also ask general questions about medical history, recurrent throat infections, and about diagnostic indicators of enlarged tonsils such as:
  • Majority of breathing taking place through the mouth (as opposed to the nose)
  • 'Stuffy nose' sound in the voice when talking
  • Runny nose, but no cold or allergy
  • Loud breathing when awake
  • Persistent snoring when asleep

Treating Enlarged Tonsils

  • If your tonsils are enlarged because of infection, the doctor may begin by prescribing an antibiotic and suggesting other remedies to help reduce discomfort until the infection goes away.
  • If your tonsils are chronically enlarged and cause persistent problems with breathing or speaking, the doctor may recommend a surgery to remove them. This surgery is called a tonsillectomy .

References:

  1. Tonsils and Adenoids. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 2014. Available at: //www.entnet.org/content/tonsils-and-adenoids. Accessed August 25, 2016.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

All materials copyright © 2019 Smith & Nephew, All Rights Reserved.