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Your ENT and Hearing Care Specialists

What Happens When You Have Enlarged Adenoids?

ENT Doctor

Adenoids are small bits of lymph tissue at the back of the soft palette. Everyone is born with adenoids. For most people adenoids never cause a problem. They sit silently in the body, doing their job of supporting the immune system in the upper airways. However, adenoids can cause problems if they become enlarged.

Causes of enlarged adenoids

Adenoids can become enlarged because of recurring bouts of allergies or bacterial or viral infections. Both infection and allergic reactions cause tissues to become inflamed. When adenoids become chronically inflamed they can cause problems.

Problems caused by enlarged adenoids

Problems caused by enlarged adenoids can range from merely annoying to potentially life-threatening. Enlarged adenoids can cause a child to snore slightly. As long as the snoring doesn’t interfere with sleep; it is not a problem. When the child hits puberty, the adenoids will be reabsorbed and the snoring will go away.

However, enlarged adenoids can also be a cause of sleep apnea. This is a serious condition in which breathing is obstructed while sleeping. Breathing actually comes to a halt; only to restart noisily. This is a potentially a very serious condition.

Enlarged adenoids can also cause problems with the Eustachian tubes in the middle ear. Swollen adenoids can prevent the tube from draining fluid in the ear properly. This can lead to recurring ear infections that can also cause adenoids to become infected creating a vicious cycle.

Adenoids that are too large can cause a child to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose. If this occurs while the child is very young, the jaw can be malformed, leading to an overbite that must be corrected.

Diagnosis of enlarged adenoids

Enlarged adenoids will be the prime suspect in recurring throat or ear infections. The ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor can diagnose the enlarged adenoids with use of an endoscope or imaging tests such as an x-ray, CT scan or MRI.

Treatment of enlarged adenoids

ENTs treat enlarged adenoids several ways. If the enlargement is caused by an infrequent infection, then antibiotics will be prescribed. If the enlargement is caused by allergies, the ENT will prescribe a course of medication and allergy control procedures to use to reduce exposure and control the allergies.

If the adenoids are enlarged due to recurring infections and allergies that do not respond to conventional treatment, then the ENT will recommend that the adenoids be removed.

Adenoid surgery is a “day surgery” or a procedure performed on an outpatient basis. When adenoids are removed without tonsil removal, the recovery time is very brief and the pain minimal. Many times both tonsils and adenoids are enlarged and they are removed at the same time.

Talk to the ENT

If your child snores or has frequent infections, sore throats or strep throat talk to the ENT about treatment for enlarged adenoids.