Enlarged Adenoids

Enlargement of the adenoids, tissue at the back of the nasal cavity that forms part of the body’s defence system

  • Most common under the age of 7
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

The adenoids, which are located at the back of the nasal cavity, consist of lymphatic tissue that forms part of the body’s defences against infection. In some children, particularly those under the age of 7, the adenoids become enlarged, which may lead to difficulties with breathing and speech. This enlargement is sometimes a result of recurrent respiratory infections or can be caused by allergies. In other cases, the cause is unknown. Infected adenoids are sometimes associated with infection of the tonsils (see Tonsillitis).

What are the symptoms?

In most children with enlarged adenoids, symptoms are mild and appear gradually. The symptoms may include:

  • Breathing through the mouth and snoring during sleep.

  • Persistently blocked or runny nose.

  • Nasal-sounding voice.

Difficulty in breathing may cause your child to wake frequently during the night, leading to tiredness and inability to concentrate. Enlarged adenoids may cause partial blockage of one or both of the eustachian tubes connecting the throat to the middle ear, which may cause recurrent middle-ear infections (see Acute otitis media in children) or a build-up of fluid in the middle ear that results in impaired hearing (see Chronic secretory otitis media). In an older child, enlarged adenoids may cause chronic sinusitis.

What might be done?

The doctor will probably examine your child’s throat. If the symptoms are mild, no treatment for enlarged adenoids is required because adenoids shrink naturally with age, and usually disappear before puberty. However, if your child has constantly disrupted sleep, recurrent middle-ear infections, or chronic secretory otitis media, the doctor may advise surgical removal of the adenoids. The tonsils are sometimes removed at the same time (see Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy). A build-up of fluid in the middle ear may be relieved by inserting a tiny drainage tube called a grommet into the eardrum.

The symptoms tend to diminish as a child gets older, and have usually gone by the time adolescence is reached.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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