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Enlarged adenoids

The adenoids are lymph tissue that sit in your upper airway between your nose and the back of your throat. They are similar to the tonsils.

Enlarged adenoids means this tissue is swollen.

Causes

Enlarged adenoids may be normal. It may start when the baby grows in the womb. The adenoids help your body prevent or fight infections by removing bacteria and germs.

Infections can cause the adenoids to become swollen. The adenoids may stay enlarged even when you are not sick.

Symptoms

Children with enlarged adenoids often breathe through their mouth because their nose is blocked. Mouth breathing occurs mostly at night, but may be seen during the day.

Mouth breathing may lead to the following symptoms:

Enlarged adenoids may also cause sleep problems. A child may:

  • Be restless while sleeping
  • Snore a lot
  • Have episodes of not breathing during sleep (sleep apnea)

Children with enlarged adenoids may also have more frequent ear infections.

Exams and Tests

The adenoids cannot be seen by looking in the mouth directly. Your doctor can see them by using a special mirror in your mouth or a flexible tube (called an endoscope) placed through the nose.

Tests may include:

  • X-ray of the throat or neck
  • Sleep study

Treatment

Many people with enlarged adenoids have few or no symptoms. You may not need treatment. Adenoids shrink as a child grows older.

If you have an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Surgery to remove the adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be done if the symptoms are severe or persistent.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

Alternative Names

Adenoids - enlarged

References

Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM,Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 375.

Update Date: 11/12/2012

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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