shutterstock_321262091The tonsils are two masses of tissue found on either side of the back of the throat. The adenoids are located high in the throat behind the nose and roof of the mouth. Together they form part of the ring of glandular tissue at the back of the throat.

The tonsils and adenoids assist the body in defense against infection by “sampling” entering bacteria and viruses and becoming infected themselves.

They then help form antibodies to resist and fight future infections. However, the tonsils and adenoids often become susceptible to recurrent bacterial infections and can even trigger airway obstruction.

Common problems afflicting the tonsils and adenoids include:

  • chronic tonsillitis or persistent infection of the tonsils
  • peritonsillar abscess, a collection of pus behind the tonsils that can lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated
  • enlargement of (hypertrophic) tonsils and adenoids, which can obstruct breathing and lead to sleep irregularities, among other problems

Bacterial infections of the tonsils and adenoids can be treated with various antibiotics. Surgical removal is considered when conditions are resistant to medical therapy or frequently recur. “Frequent recurrence” is loosely defined as 6-7 episodes per year; 4-5 episodes per year for a two year period; or 3 episodes per year for a three year period.