What are Tonsils and Adenoids?

Tonsils are lymph-like soft tissue located on both sides of the back of the throat. Along with adenoids (soft tissue behind the nose), tonsils help your body fight infection by producing antibodies to combat bacteria that enter through the mouth and nose. Approximately 600,000 people have their tonsils removed each year. Now there’s a gentler procedure.

Why have your tonsils removed?

Tonsils and adenoids can cause health problems when they become infected or obstruct normal breathing or nasal/sinus drainage. Recurring infections in the tonsils can lead to chronic tonsillitis. Symptoms include fever, persistent sore throat, redness of the tonsil area, yellow discharge on the tonsils, and tender lymph nodes on both sides of the neck. In addition to blocking the throat, enlarged tonsils may interfere with normal breathing, nasal sinus drainage, sleeping, swallowing and speaking. They may also aggravate snoring and can even cause an alarming condition called sleep apnea, which involves an occasional stoppage of breathing.

What happens before and after the procedure?

After surgery is scheduled the patient will be brought into the office a week to ten days before the procedure for pre-op paper work along with a history and physical exam. That same day the patient will usually have to do pre-op at the hospital as well. During the pre-op visit a prescription for post-op pain medication will be given so that it can be filled and ready by the time the patient comes home.

It is common for patients who have undergone Coblation Tonsillectomy to feel better than expected following their surgery, with most patients resuming a normal diet and activities within two weeks. Therefore, it is critical that the patient avoid vigorous activity, such as sports, running, and heavy lifting as well as follow a soft food diet for 14 days after the procedure (see our tonsillectomy post-op instructions). This will help to reduce their risk for complications such as post-operative bleeding.

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the tonsils in the back of the throat caused by infection from either a virus or bacteria. The inflammation may involve other areas of the back of the throat including the adenoids and the lingual tonsils (areas of tonsil tissue at the back of the tongue). There are several variations of tonsillitis: acute, recurrent, chronic tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess.

What Causes Tonsillitis?

The most common causes of tonsillitis are the common cold viruses (adenovirus, rhinovirus, influenza, corona virus, respiratory syncytial virus). It can also be caused by Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus, or HIV. The second most common causes are bacterial. The most common bacterial cause is Group A β-hemolytic streptococcus (GABHS), which causes strep throat. Less common bacterial causes include: Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasam Pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, perussis, fusobacterium, diphtheria, syphilis, and gonorrhea.
Normally viruses and bacteria enter the body through the nose and mouth and the tonsils and adenoids (located in the back of the nose) act as filters. Within the tonsils and adenoids white blood cells of the immune system mount an attack that helps destroy the viruses or bacteria, and also causes inflammation and fever. The infection may also be present in the pharynx (back of the throat).

What are Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

  • Acute tonsillitis: Patients have a fever, sore throat, foul breath, difficulty swallowing, painful swallowing and tender neck lymph nodes. Airway obstruction due to swollen tonsils may cause mouth breathing, snoring, nocturnal breathing pauses, or sleep apnea. These symptoms usually resolve in three to four days but may last up to two weeks despite treatment.
  • Recurrent tonsillitis: This diagnosis is made when a patient has multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis in a year. Typically 5-6 infections in a year is when adenotonsillectomy would be considered.
  • Chronic tonsillitis: Individuals often have chronic sore throat, bad breath, tonsiliths (tonsil stones) and persistently tender neck nodes. Typically 3-4 infections in consecutive 3-4 years is when adenotonsillectomy would be considered.
  • Peritonsillar abscess: Individuals often have severe throat pain, unilateral enlarged and inflamed tonsil, fever, drooling, foul breath, trismus (difficulty opening the mouth), and muffled voice quality, such as the “hot potato” voice (as if talking with a hot potato in his or her mouth).

How is Tonsillitis Treated?

Tonsillitis is usually treated with hydration and pain control in viral cases and in bacterial cases, such as “strep throat” antibiotics are given for 10 days. In both instances if inflammation is severe sometimes steroids are also prescribed. Hospitalization may be required in severe cases, particularly when there is airway obstruction. When the condition is chronic or recurrent, a surgical procedure  to remove the tonsils and adenoids is often recommended.  The surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and requires 2 weeks for complete healing.


Would You Like to Schedule an Appointment or Need More Information?

We are committed to providing the highest quality otolaryngology and audiology care available anywhere. Please call us at (916) 984-1234, fill out the form on the Contact Us page, or request an appointment.