All About Adenoids: What Exactly Are They?


Photo Credit: WebMD

What the heck are adenoids? We hear about them a lot, especially in conjunction with tonsils. We’ve even written two blogs that mention them: “What Are Tonsils and What Do They Do?” and “The Difference Between Tonsillitis & Adenoiditis.” But still, does anyone know what they really are? In this blog, we’ll talk about just that.

WebMD explains adenoids:

The adenoids are a mass of soft tissue behind the nasal cavity. Like lymph nodes, adenoids are part of the immune system and are made of the same type of tissue (lymphoid tissue). White blood cells circulate through the adenoids and other lymphoid tissue, reacting to foreign invaders in the body.

Everyone is born with adenoids, however many people have them removed when they’re children if they have their tonsils removed. And strangely enough, if you do have them, as you grow older they shrink and pretty much disappear.

Can adenoids cause health complications?

Yes. Children are more susceptible to problems with their adenoids than adults are because, quite simply, most adults don’t have them.That’s not to say that issues don’t arise in adults, just that they are very rare. Adenoid conditions include:

  • Adenoiditis: Extremely common problem caused by an inflammation of the adenoids usually because of infection (viral or bacterial).
  • Enlarged: Sometimes, and the reason isn’t always known, adenoids become bigger and cause obstructions (see next two bullet points).
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: The most common type of sleep apnea; occurs in this case when the adenoids are inflamed, limiting air intake and lowering the amount of oxygen in your blood.
  • Ear infections: Adenoids may block the Eustachian tubes if they become inflamed or enlarged, preventing drainage and leading to infection.

When should adenoids be examined and how is that done?

If the following symptoms are present, you should make an appointment with a physician:

  • Sore throat
  • Congested nose
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Ear pain, fluid build-up or hearing loss
  • Snoring, sleep apnea, or difficulty sleeping

Because even a doctor cannot see the adenoids through the mouth, inspecting them requires technology. This can be done through an endoscopy, CT scan or MRI — all of which are quick and painless. If your doctor does discover a problem, it is usually treated in one of two ways: antibiotic for infection or surgery (adenoidectomy) if they have grown too large or are consistently infected.

If you suspect enlarged or infected adenoids, our expert team at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat can help. We provide comprehensive care for all types of throat conditions and will be able to examine and diagnose what is going on. Once the cause is determined, we’ll figure out the best way to treat the symptoms and find relief.

Call us at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices — Kent, Litchfield, Shelton and Waterbury. Your adenoids should not be annoying.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.

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