An infection in your tonsils, or tonsillitis, is one of the most common throat infections, especially in children. Tonsils are the flesh-like cushions of tissue at the back of your throat, which help your body to fight off disease. However, through contact with others and normal activity your immune system may lower and your tonsils can become inflamed, usually from viruses or bacteria. When it is bacterial based, it is associated with the condition “strep throat”. Tonsillitis is often a childhood complication that is painful and persistent enough to require surgery. A tonsillectomy is the surgery to remove tonsils that have become bothersome or infected.
The signs and symptoms of tonsillitis requiring a tonsillectomy may appear gradually or suddenly depending on the cause. Signs of tonsillitis will vary by individual, however common symptoms include:
• Sore throat
• Stomach aches
• Appetite changes
• Bad breath
• Painful swallowing
• Swollen neck lymph notes
• Drainage in the throat
• Deep red color of the tonsils
• White or yellow covering on the tonsils
• Bleeding from the tonsils
Adenoids are similar to your tonsils in their function and location. They help your body fight infection and are located in the back area of your mouth. However, adenoids are made of lymph tissue and usually cannot be seen without a doctor’s instruments. They sit at the very roof of your mouth (the nasopharynx) where they may become a nuisance if infected. Often times your tonsils and adenoids are removed together, but this is not always the case. When your adenoids are irritated and painful, usually it is due to an infection, and your condition is referred to as adenoiditis. Surgery is recommended when persistent cases of adenoiditis do not respond properly to medical intervention. The surgical removal for bothersome adenoids is called an adenoidectomy.
Difficulty breathing through your nose is one of the first sings of enlarged or irritated adenoids. Other symptoms may mimic a common cold or resemble signs of sleep apnea. They may occur in conjunction with tonsillitis or separately. Additional signs and symptoms of inflamed adenoids requiring an adenoidectomy include:
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Difficulty breathing through the nose
• Persistent breathing through only the mouth
• Heavy breathing sounds
• Frequent ear infections
• Loud nighttime snoring
Diagnosis and Treatment
Occasional tonsillitis or adenoiditis does not merit the need of immediate surgery. When these conditions become recurrent however, a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A) is usually the course of action. The patient’s age, medication tolerance, medical history and overall health will all influence the final decision for surgery. Additionally, removal of the tonsils and adenoids could be mainly for the other conditions associated with the eustachian tube such as chronic ear and nose problems. Your doctor can best decide if this surgery is right for you or your child based on your unique symptoms and a thorough examination.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may be beneficial in patients who experience:
• Three sore throats in three years
• Five sore throats in two years
• Seven sore throats in one year
Furthermore, an adeniodectomy can be used to treat more serious conditions related to thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism. In these cases, an incision is made to remove part or all of the thyroid gland, depending on your condition. Prior to your procedure, your doctor will discuss with you in detail the exact method of surgery you will undergo.
After surgery the patient can usually return home the same day under supervision. In young children, it is especially important to watch over the child during the healing process. Rest and nutrition, will most help a person to properly heal after surgery as well as keeping contact with your doctor.
After a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, many of your ear, nose and throat concerns should disappear. Careful planning and open communication between patients and our doctors allows us to provide the finest surgical interventions for you and your child, while keeping you as comfortable and relaxed as possible. For stable relief from your troublesome tonsil and adenoid infections contact our offices today.