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What are enlarged adenoids?
Adenoids are tiny pieces of tissue in the back of your throat. They hang above your tonsils and near your nasal passages. If you look at the back of your throat, you may be able to see your tonsils, but not your adenoids. From the time you are born until you enter kindergarten, adenoids help fight off infections in your body. After that, they shrink in size and don’t play a big role in your body’s health. They don’t get a lot of attention until they become enlarged. Adenoids are like a sponge — they catch the germs that make you sick, which causes them to increase in size. Most of the time, they return to their normal size when you are healthy again. Sometimes, they remain swollen or enlarged, and become problematic.
Symptoms of enlarged adenoids
Some symptoms of enlarged adenoids include:
- a sore throat
- a stuffy nose
- a feeling like your ears are blocked
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty swallowing
- swollen neck glands
- sleep apnea (a condition that causes you to stop breathing for short periods while asleep)
- chapped or dry lips because you have to breathe through your mouth when your nose is stuffy
What causes enlarged adenoids?
Adenoids catch the germs that make you sick, which causes them to increase in size. Most of the time, they return to their normal size when you are healthy again. If they remain swollen or enlarged, they can become problematic.
How are enlarged adenoids diagnosed?
Start by telling your doctor about your stuffy nose, sore throat, or ear infection. He or she will look at the back of your throat. Your doctor may have to use a special scope with a mirror to get a better look at your adenoids. The scope is made of a thin, flexible material and is inserted through your nose and down the back of your throat. It may be uncomfortable, but not painful. If your doctor suspects an infection, he or she may order a blood test. Some doctors may order a sleep study to determine whether enlarged adenoids are the reason for your difficulty in sleeping or if it’s a more serious issue, such as sleep apnea.
Can enlarged adenoids be prevented or avoided?
Having enlarged adenoids is a common condition for children and becomes less of an issue as people age. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. However, seeking early medical attention for a sore throat or ear infection can help your doctor monitor the size of your adenoids and potentially reduce your discomfort.
Enlarged adenoids treatment
Depending on your age and how long your adenoids have been enlarged, your doctor may decide to just monitor the adenoids’ size over time or prescribe a nasal spray to reduce swelling. Surgery to remove your adenoids and tonsils at the same time is very common, especially if you have frequent ear and throat infections, trouble breathing, or obstructive sleep apnea.
Living with enlarged adenoids
If your child has enlarged adenoids but they don't require surgery, it may be because they respond well to medication (antibiotics). If this is the case, know that the problem won't last forever. In kids, it is common for adenoids to shrink as they get older (usually by the time they are in kindergarten). By they time your child is a teenager, his or her adenoids will most likely be practically gone.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What makes adenoids enlarge?
- Can I have my enlarged adenoids removed as an elective surgery?
- Can having enlarged adenoids be hereditary?
- Is the recovery time for surgery worse for adults?
- Is there a connection between enlarged adenoids and strep throat?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.