Typically, when experiencing a stuffy, runny nose or painful ear infection this is from a sinus infection or the common cold. However, sometimes these symptoms have more to do with swollen glands than sinuses. These glands or adenoids can become swollen or even infected, especially in children. If the glands cause recurring problems, a physician may recommend removal.
Adenoids are located in the roof of the mouth, behind the soft palate where the nose connects to the throat. Adenoids are part of the immune system, producing antibodies to help the body overpower infections. Typically, catching germs in the nose to prevent spreading sickness to the rest of the body. However, through the process of battling bacteria, these glands can become swollen and uncomfortable.
How adenoids ambush the ear tubes
Due to the swelling of adenoids, the glands enlarge. This can lead to blockage in the area called the Eustachian Tube (ET). The ET connects to a part of the ear housing small bones, which are used to help control ear pressure and conduct sound. This structure is also the path that viruses and bacteria can enter and exit the ear.
When enlarged adenoids cause blockage in the ET, fluid builds up in the ear. That build up can easily lead to repeated ear infections or even temporary loss of hearing. Children with frequent ear infections may be recommended an adenoidectomy. Experts indicate that removing adenoids is an effective treatment for recurring ear infections that do not respond to antibiotics.
When to Think About Removing Adenoids
Adenoids tend to be largest during early childhood, and through adolescence, the glands start shrinking. The adenoids become very small during the teenage years and can disappear entirely by adulthood. As a result, adenoid removal mostly occurs in young children.
How to examine adenoids
Swollen adenoids cannot be seen by looking directly into the mouth. A healthcare provider will use a specifically designed mirror or by inserting an endoscope to do an examination. This is a flexible tube with a light and camera placed through the nose. Other tests to determine the right course of treatment may include an x-ray of the throat or neck or a sleep study if sleep apnea is suspected.
Adult adenoid removal
There are instances where adults do need adenoid removal. If a tumor is discovered and there’s a possibility of cancer, an otolaryngologist will perform this minimally invasive surgery. An otolaryngologist is an ear, nose and throat doctor, commonly shortened to ENT. While removal may not be the most common first step in treating ear infections, physicians do have the option of removing adenoids to address recurring issues.