EAR, NOSE & THROAT
Adenoids and Tonsils
The tonsils are a pair of tissue that sits on both sides of the throat. The pharynx houses the tonsils. They contain white blood cells and not only prevent infection but also fight infection. The tonsils vary in size. Although they can help fight infection, they can be removed. Removal of the tonsils does not affect the body. You can live without them.
The adenoid is a patch of tissue that sits in the back of the nasal cavity. It has the same function as the tonsils in that it helps to prevent and fight illness. The adenoids contain white blood cells that are necessary for fighting off infection. Adenoids are vital during childhood. The immune system of a child is still developing, and the adenoids help assist in fighting off infection. As you age, the adenoids begin to shrink and by adulthood, they tend to disappear.
Tonsil and Adenoid Diseases
The tonsils are supposed to be small pieces of tissue, and when they become enlarged, they can cause a lot of problems. The tonsils do not have to be removed, but some situations require a tonsillectomy. Tonsillitis, swelling of the tonsils, can obstruct breathing. It may cause sleep apnea and snoring. An abscess on the tonsils is painful and can spread leading to infection in other parts of the body. Diseases such as mononucleosis and strep throat affect the tonsils. Both diseases are carried by saliva and if not treated, may lead to tonsil swelling. Like gallstones, tonsils also have the ability to form stones. These stones can hinder breathing and may need to be removed.
The adenoids in most cases do not need to be removed because they disappear. In some instances, the adenoids become inflamed in a condition called adenoiditis. Some people have adenoids that are naturally large. The size of the adenoids may affect breathing. Sleep apnea and recurrent sinus infections can also be a result of enlarged adenoids. Unfortunately, enlarged adenoids can block the Eustachian tubes leading to recurrent ear infections.
Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy
Tonsillectomy is the removal of the tonsils. It is typically performed for the reasons stated above. More commonly, though, it is carried out in adults who have breathing problems or sleep apnea. A tonsillectomy is not the first choice for treating tonsil problems. A doctor would consider a tonsillectomy for those who are having 5-7 recurring infections a year, whether that is an ear or sinus related infection. Recurring tonsillitis that is not responding to antibiotics also makes you a candidate for a tonsillectomy. A tonsillectomy is the first choice of treatment in the case of an abscess.
Adenoidectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the adenoids. An adenoidectomy may be done in conjunction with a tonsillectomy. Adenoidectomies remove enlarged or inflamed tonsils. Recurrent ear infections may require the removal of the adenoids. Any sleeping or breathing problems make adenoid removal crucial. Unlike a tonsillectomy, an adenoidectomy does not require an incision. It is a process done through cauterization, which is the burning of skin or flesh.
Recovery after Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy
Both surgeries are quick, and recovery is short. They take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. A tonsillectomy requires 10-14 days of recovery. Recovery is only about 7-10 days for an adenoidectomy. Adenoidectomy recovery is shorter because there is no cutting necessary. Both surgeries have risks. The risks include bleeding and infection. During the recovery period, you should drink lots of fluids. There is pain and swallowing may be difficult, so it is best to stick with a soft, bland diet. Stay away from foods difficult to chew as well as anything spicy or acidic. Take your medications. Not everyone likes taking pain medication, but it will help keep you comfortable. Rest is a must to assist in a full recovery. Stay away from any physical activity during the first week of recovery. A doctor will typically not approve of you returning to work or going back to school until you can start back on a regular diet.
A tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are very similar. The main difference in the two surgeries is the structure removed. Everyone does not require surgery for tonsil and adenoid issues. As an adult, your adenoids may have already disappeared. Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are performed more in children, but the reasons for surgery in children tend to differ from those in adults. Children require surgery for issues related to recurrent infections. Adults require surgery typically related to sleep apnea and breathing problems. An adenoidectomy is not performed on young children because they need their adenoids but once a child hits the adolescent years, an adenoidectomy is permitted.
If you do not have any problems with either your adenoids or tonsils, count yourself lucky. Adenoid and tonsil issues are extremely common. If you notice your child is struggling with recurrent infections, they may need a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. As an adult, if you have trouble breathing, or suffer from sleep apnea, you should speak to an ear, nose, and throat physician. Surgery may resolve your problems. Removal of these structures does not have a negative effect on your body. As an adult, they are not even necessary. If surgery is required for you, look at it on the bright side, you can remove dead weight.
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