Tonsils and Adenoids
The tonsils are two masses of tissue found on either side of the back of the throat. The adenoids are located behind the nose and high in the roof of the mouth. Together they form part of the lymphatic tissue at the back of the throat. They are an integral part of our immune system that protects the upper respiratory tract and prevents disease. The tonsils and adenoids assist the body in defense against infection by "sampling" entering bacteria and viruses and becoming infected themselves. They then help form antibodies to resist and fight future infections.
The tonsils and adenoids often become susceptible to recurrent bacterial infections and obstruction that may lead to breathing, swallowing and sleep problems. Some of these conditions may become serious and require surgery. Common problems afflicting the tonsils and adenoids include:
- Chronic tonsillitis or persistent infection of the tonsils
- Enlargement of tonsils and adenoids
- Peritonsillar abscess
- Tonsil stones
Bacterial infections of the tonsils and adenoids can be treated with various antibiotics. Surgical removal, called a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy, is considered when conditions are resistant to medical therapy or frequently recur. Frequent recurrence is loosely defined as 6 to 7 episodes per year; 4 to 5 episodes per year in a two year period; or three episodes per year in a three year period.
The germs and bacteria that cause tonsillitis are contagious, therefore the best prevention is to practice good hygiene and frequent hand washing, as well as avoiding close contact with others who are sick.