Enlarged adenoids: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

The adenoids are glands that sit behind the nose above the roof of the mouth. When they grow large, they can cause snoring and breathing problems.

This article will describe the function of the adenoids, what causes them to become enlarged, and how to identify enlarged adenoids. We also look at various treatment options.

What are the adenoids?

The adenoids are glands that sit above the roof of the mouth and the tonsils. They are part of the immune system.

These glands help trap germs that enter the nose or the mouth, in an effort to prevent infections.

The size of the adenoids increases until a child is 6 years old, then they slowly shrink. The adenoids usually disappear by the time a person is 16. Enlarged adenoids are rare in adults.


Most of the time, the adenoids become enlarged when the body is trying to fight off infection. They can remain enlarged, even after the infection is gone.

Some children have enlarged adenoids from birth. Allergies can also cause this enlargement.

Although it is rare, adults’ adenoids can become enlarged, due to a chronic infection or allergy, pollution, or smoking. Even less common is enlarged adenoids resulting from a cancerous tumor.

A doctor may refer the child to a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders. This type of doctor can be called an ENT specialist.

The doctor will take a history of the child’s symptoms and perform a physical exam that includes the back of the throat.

The doctor may use a tool that consists of a camera on the end of a lighted scope to look at the adenoids. They insert the scope through the nose.

Also, they may recommend a blood test to look for infection.

If the child has symptoms of a sleep disturbance, the doctor might recommend a sleep study. This can help indicate whether the symptoms relate to difficulties breathing during sleep or sleep apnea, which sometimes occurs with enlarged adenoids.

An adenoidectomy is a simple surgery that is generally low-risk. The doctor may decide that surgery to remove the adenoids is appropriate if the child experiences:

  • recurrent infections of the adenoids, resulting in frequent sinus or ear infections
  • infections that do not go away with antibiotics
  • breathing problems, especially those that interfere with sleep

If the child has been experiencing problems with their tonsils, the doctor may decide to remove the tonsils at the same time. This is called an adenotonsillectomy.

The procedure for an adenoidectomy involves a doctor putting the child under general anesthesia and removing the adenoids through the mouth. In most cases, the child returns home the same day.

After the surgery, the child will likely experience mild pain and discomfort, including minor bleeding, a sore throat, a runny nose, or noisy breathing.

During recovery, which usually lasts about 1 week, the child should rest and avoid strenuous activities. They should also eat soft, low-acid foods.

Possible complications

A child with enlarged adenoids can experience the following complications:

  • otitis media with effusion, or glue ear, a middle-ear infection with chronic fluid buildup that can lead to hearing problems
  • sleep apnea, which causes pauses in breathing while sleeping, as well as snoring
  • problems breathing through the nose, which leads to excessive mouth-breathing


Enlarged adenoids are common in children. If a person suspects that the adenoids are enlarged, they should visit a doctor.

If the issue does not resolve on its own, doctors can often provide effective treatments. If enlarged adenoids become problematic, surgery to remove the glands may be necessary.

Source: Read Full Article

Create Account

Log In Your Account