Published: Feb. 19, 2010
Updated: Apr. 14, 2011
Tonsils are masses of tissue -- similar to lymph nodes of the neck -- located on the sides of the throat. Adenoids (or the adenoid) are a pad of similar tissue located in the back of the nose.
These tissues can get large with a sudden infection, like the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes “mono” or infectious mononucleosis), or they can become repeatedly infected with Streptococcus pyogenes (the “strep throat” organism).
Allergies or other conditions that cause inflammation can also cause the adenoids and tonsils to become enlarged.
As we grow from babies through childhood, adenoid tissue usually shrinks by early teen years and the tonsils do so by early adulthood. In situations where the enlarged adenoids and tonsils are causing significant symptoms such as snoring with or without sleep apnea, frequent mouth-breathing, or frequent throat infections, they may need to be managed with either surgery or medication.
For any of these reasons, tonsils and adenoids may be removed under general anesthesia as an inpatient or an outpatient procedure, depending upon the patient's overall medical condition.