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Adenoiditis is an inflammation of the adenoids. Adenoids are masses of lymph tissue that help the body fight infection. Adenoids are found in the pharynx (throat) just behind the nose. Along with the tonsils, adenoids are the first line of defense in your throat.
The lymphatic system performs several roles to help protect you from infection. Adenoids store white blood cells and antibodies that help to destroy possible infections threatening your health. Inflamed adenoids may not perform their function properly.
Adenoiditis can be caused by a bacterial infection, such as Streptococcus, or by viruses, such as the Epstein-Barr virus (among others).
Certain risk factors make you susceptible to infections of the adenoidal tissues. The risks are:
Everyone is born with large adenoids. They begin to shrink as we age. Children are often more susceptible to adenoiditis because their adenoids have not shrunk down yet.
Adenoiditis may begin as a swelling or enlargement of the tissue. The swelling may block or restrict your airways. It can make it difficult to breathe through your nose.
Other problems associated with swollen adenoids include:
You may experience a number of complications from adenoiditis. These complications may result in chronic or severe inflammation in adenoidal tissues that spread to other locations of the head and neck.
You may experience infections in the middle ear. Your adenoids lie next to the Eustachian tubes of the middle ear. As adenoiditis symptoms increase, the inflammation may block the opening of the tubes leading to the middle ear leading to infection and difficulty hearing.
This complication occurs when mucus builds up and blocks the middle ear, which affects your hearing. It typically begins as a blockage of the Eustachian tubes, which are the tubes that allow fluid to drain from the ears.
Your sinus cavities may fill up with fluid and become infected. The sinuses are the hollow areas within the facial bones that contain pockets of air.
You may experience a chest infection, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, if your adenoids become severely infected with a virus or bacteria. The infection may spread to the lungs, bronchioles, and other structures in the respiratory system.
Your primary care physician may refer you over to a specialist called an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT). An ENT doctor has specialized training in infections, diseases and conditions of the ear, nose, and throat. You may undergo a physical examination to determine where the infection is located.
Other tests include:
The ENT doctor may require information about your family history to determine if your condition is hereditary.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to cure your infection. The use of antibiotics often proves successful in treating inflamed adenoidal tissue. Surgery to remove your adenoids may also be an option. Surgery is used to remove adenoids that:
Most antibiotics clear up infections. Your breathing and swallowing may also improve.
You can help prevent infection in your adenoids, as well as those of your children, by eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluids. Getting enough sleep at night can also help. If your child has problems with their adenoids, seek the advice of her pediatrician.
Written by: Brindles Lee Macon
Published on: Aug 07, 2012
Medically reviewed on: Jan 06, 2016: Steve Kim, MD
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