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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. You may be able to see your tonsils at the back of your throat. You cannot see your adenoids.
Adenoids help fight infections in your body. They are the most helpful between birth and age 5. Adenoids are like a sponge. They catch the germs that make you sick. That’s what causes them to increase in size. They return to normal size when you are healthy.
It is not normal for them to remain swollen (enlarged). After age 5, they shrink in size. They no longer play a big role in your body’s health. They are not important unless they become enlarged. They rarely become enlarged as an adult.
Symptoms of enlarged adenoids
If you have enlarged adenoids, you may have these symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- 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 sleeping)
- Chapped lips/bad breath (due to having to breathe through your mouth)
What causes enlarged adenoids?
Infections cause adenoids to temporarily increase in size.
How are enlarged adenoids diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam. This will look at the back of your throat. This may be done by inserting a thin, flexible scope with a mirror through your nose and down the back of your throat. This procedure may be uncomfortable but should not be painful.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have a stuffy nose, sore throat, or your ears hurt. They may order a blood test to see if you have an infection. Your healthcare providers may also order a sleep study to see if you have sleep apnea. This helps determine whether enlarged adenoids are the reason for your sleep problems.
Can enlarged adenoids be prevented or avoided?
Having enlarged adenoids is a common condition for children. It is less of an issue as people age. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. Prompt attention for a sore throat or ear infection can help your healthcare provider monitor the size of your adenoids. This may reduce your discomfort.
Enlarged adenoids treatment
Treatment depends on your age and how long your adenoids have been enlarged. Your healthcare provider may monitor the adenoids’ size over time. They may prescribe a nasal spray to reduce swelling. Surgery to remove your adenoids and tonsils at the same time is common. This is common if you have frequent ear and throat infections, trouble breathing, or sleep apnea.
Living with enlarged adenoids
Children with enlarged adenoids are treated with an antibiotic. This is to eliminate the infection that is causing enlarged adenoids. Be sure your child takes the full dose. A partial dose will allow the infection to return. If medicine is not effective after repeated illness, your healthcare provider may discuss surgery.