Why Adenoids Are Often Removed With Surgery

The adenoids are glands in the throat that work as part of the lymphatic system, one of the infection-fighting portions of the immune system. They're also known as the nasopharyngeal tonsils or the pharyngeal tonsils. Of the three sets of tonsils in the throat, the adenoids are the highest, resting closest to the mouth. They are made up of lymphatic tissue.

Function

The adenoids are just one of three sets of tonsils that work to fight off infection in the mouth and throat. Like lymph nodes, the adenoids attempt to trap infections material and rid the body of bacteria and viruses.

Why Adenoids Are Often Removed

In the course of fighting infection, the adenoids may become infected themselves. When infected, the adenoids can swell to the size of a walnut, which can result in issues with snoring. In individuals with frequent strep throat infections, the adenoids are often affected as well and become enlarged, angry, and painful.

In a small throat, an adenoid that is filled with infection or swollen to a significant size can cause pain but in rare cases, can seriously affect the ability to breathe. Even worse, the adenoids may become chronically swollen, enlarged even when infection is not present, so the breathing issues may remain even after the infection has resolved.

If the infection happens repeatedly, or the adenoids remain chronically enlarged, they may need to be removed in a surgery called an adenoidectomy which is often done along with a tonsillectomy.

In approximately 20% of patients, the adenoids may grow back after surgery.

Adults and Adenoids

Adults who did not have a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may have this procedure as a treatment for sleep apnea.

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