We’ve all heard about tonsils in movies and read about them in stories. Characters get a sore throat, a tonsillectomy, and then get to eat loads of ice cream. But what are tonsils and why do they sometimes have to be removed? It’s not just tonsils, either. They may be the more famous of ear, nose and throat structures, but adenoids play a similar role and are just as important.
Here’s what you need to know about these often overlooked two pieces of tissue in the throat.
What are tonsils and adenoids?
Believe it or not, these pieces of lymphoid tissue are not only part of the lymphatic system, but also play a key role in the immune system. Strategically placed in the top back of the throat behind the nose (adenoids) and along either side of the back of the throat (tonsils), the two work together to filter viruses and bacteria that enter through the nose and mouth. Once viruses and bacteria are trapped immune cells within the tonsils and adenoids eliminate them.
Working as a filter in the body, occasionally the tonsils and adenoids can become infected. In these cases, you should schedule an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) expert.
Signs you may need to see a specialist
While most of the time the tonsils and adenoids can do their job without complication, occasionally they can become infected. Several symptoms can indicate an infection that requires the trained eye, diagnosis skills and treatment of a specialist.
In some cases, enlarged tonsils and adenoids can be caused by allergies or reflux. An ENT can help you determine the cause and best course of action.
How an ENT can help with a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy
While enlargement and infections of the tonsils and adenoids can often be resolved without surgery, there are some instances where surgery becomes the best option. Generally, if a person experiences an infection seven times within a single year or 3 episodes per year for three consecutive years, surgery would be considered the next step.
While part of the immune system, when the tonsils and adenoids do have to be removed, it makes little impact to the total system.
Occasionally, an ENT would also consider a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy if:
The tonsils or adenoids are causing difficulty breathing or swallowing
Antibiotics can’t get rid of a bacterial infection
These cases are much fewer and far between than they once were. In general, enlarged or infected tonsils and adenoids can be treated and resolved within 7 to 10 days without the need for surgery.
If you believe you have tonsillitis or an infection of the adenoids, don’t wait to make an appointment with your ENT to get checked. Simple treatments can offer relief and prevent further complications.
Call our office to schedule an appointment or get your questions about tonsils and adenoids answered.