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Tonsils and Adnoids


Tonsils are the two small masses of lymphoid tissue in the throat. There is one on each side of the root of the tongue. An adenoid is a mass of enlarged lymphatic tissue between the back of the nose and the throat, often hindering speaking and breathing in children.

Tonsils and adenoids help to defend the body from infection. They trap bacteria and viruses that are inhaled through the nose. Although their primary purpose is to prevent infection, they are not considered to be very important. After early childhood, the adenoids shrink dramatically and often almost disappear completely. The human body has other means of preventing infection.

Complications that occur with tonsils are:

  • Tonsillitis - this is an infection of the tonsils. Symptoms include cough, fever, swallowing pain, and tiredness. Pus can appear as white spots on the enlarged tonsils and symptoms become worse over the course of 2-3 weeks.
  • Glandular fever - this tends to be a severe bout of tonsillitis.
  • Quinsy - this is a condition where an abscess of pus collects next to a tonsil due to a bacterial infection. The tonsil is pushed to the midline as the pus forms and causes quite a bit of pain. 
  • Tonsil cancer - this condition is very rare. It is only common in smokers and those who drink copious amounts of alcohol.

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