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Enlarged adenoids

Definition

Enlarged adenoids refers to swollen lymphatic tissue that is found in the airway between your nose and the back of your throat. The tissue is similar to the tonsils.

Alternative Names

Adenoids - enlarged

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Enlargement of the adenoids may occur naturally (beginning when the baby grows in the womb), or it may be caused by long-term inflammation. The adenoids normally shrink as children reach adolescence.

Symptoms

  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth breathing (mostly at night)
  • Mouth open during day (more severe obstruction)
  • Persistent runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Restlessness while sleeping
  • Snoring

Signs and tests

The adenoids cannot be seen by looking in the mouth directly, but can be seen with a special mirror or using a flexible endoscope through the nose.

Tests may include:

  • X-ray (side view of the throat)
  • Sleep apnea studies (severe cases only)

Treatment

Antibiotics may be used to treat tonsil, adenoid, and sinus infections when they occur.

Surgery to remove the adenoids (adenoidectomy) may relieve symptoms or prevent complications in those with frequent ear or sinus infections or fluid behind the ears. It may also be done when ear tubes have not successfully reduced infections.

Expectations (prognosis)

Full recovery is expected.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if your child has difficulty breathing through the nose or other symptoms of enlarged adenoids.

Prevention

Treating throat infections early may prevent the adenoids from becoming enlarged from long-term infection and inflammation. Removing the adenoids prevents long-term airway blockage.

References

Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 380.


Review Date: 12/1/2008
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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