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Adenoid hyperplasia is an enlargement of the lymph glands located above the back of the mouth.
Located at the back of the mouth above and below the soft palate are two pairs of lymph glands. The tonsils below are clearly visible behind the back teeth; the adenoids lie just above them and are hidden from view by the palate. Together these four arsenals of immune defense guard the major entrance to the body from foreign invaders, the germs we breathe and eat. In contrast to the rest of the body's tissues, lymphoid tissue reaches its greatest size in mid-childhood and recedes thereafter. In this way children are best able to develop the immunities they need to survive in a world full of infectious diseases.
Beyond its normal growth pattern, lymphoid tissue grows excessively (hypertrophies) during an acute infection, as it suddenly increases its immune activity to fight off the invaders. Often it does not completely return to its former size. Each subsequent infection leaves behind a larger set of tonsils and adenoids. To make matters worse, the sponge-like structure of these hypertrophied glands can produce safe havens for germs where the body cannot reach and eliminate them. Before antibiotics and the reduction in infectious childhood diseases over the last few generations of the twentieth century, tonsils and adenoids caused even greater health problems.
The true incidence of adenoid hyperplasia is difficult to assess. What is clear, however, is that tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T and A), the surgical treatment for the condition, is the most frequently performed major surgical procedure in the United States. Information current in 2004 on the exact number of these procedures performed was difficult to obtain because they are routinely performed in outpatient settings. Adenoid hypertrophy does not appear to affect any gender or racial group more than another.
Author Info: J. Ricker Polsdorfer MD, Deborah L. Nurmi MS, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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