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Enlarged adenoids

Definition

Enlarged adenoids refers to swollen lymphatic tissue in the back of the nose. The tissue is similar to the tonsils.

Alternative Names

Adenoids - enlarged

Causes

Enlargement of the adenoids may occur naturally (beginning when the baby grows in the womb), or it may be caused by long-term inflammation.

Symptoms

  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Intermittent sleep apnea
  • Mouth breathing (mostly at night)
  • Mouth open during day (more severe obstruction)
  • Persistent runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Restlessness while sleeping
  • Snoring

Exams and Tests

The adenoids cannot be seen by looking in the mouth directly, but can be seen with a special mirror or using a flexible endoscope through the nose.

Tests may include:

  • X-ray (side view of the throat)
  • Sleep apnea studies (severe cases only)

Treatment

Surgical removal of the adenoids (adenoidectomy) will prevent complications, and will cure complications if they already exist from enlarged adenoids. Antibiotics may be used to treat tonsil, adenoid, and sinus infections when they occur.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Full recovery is expected.

Possible Complications

Enlarged adenoids can cause health-threatening conditions such as chronic ear infections, sleep apnea, pulmonary hypertension, and right-sided heart failure.

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.

Prevention

Treating throat infections early may prevent the adenoids from becoming enlarged from long-term infection and inflammation. Removing the adenoids prevents long-term airway blockage.


Review Date: 12/1/2008
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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