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Enlarged Adenoids

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 at the back of the nasal cavity. Adenoids 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.

Symptoms of Enlarged Adenoids

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.

When Is Surgery Necessary?

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.

What Happens During the Surgery?

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.

After Surgery

The typical recovery after an adenoidectomy often involves several days of mild pain and discomfort, including sore throat and stuff nose and sometimes an earache.

In less than a week after surgery, everything should return to normal. There are no stitches to worry about, so the area where the adenoids were will be left to heal naturally.

Reviewed by: Steven P. Cook, MD
Date reviewed: April 2016

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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