If you look in your mouth and you still have your tonsils, you’ll see two pinkish lumps, one on either side of your throat. Tonsils are masses of soft tissue, similar to lymph nodes. As part of the body’s immune system, they contain cells that attack and destroy bacteria. They are the first line of defense against any bacteria or virus that enters the mouth.
Though they are mainly good, tonsils can also cause problems in our bodies, such as:
- Infection – usually caused by viruses, but occasionally by bacteria such as Streptococcus.
- Abscess – a severe infection that causes a pocket of purulent material to form in the soft tissue next to the tonsil.
- Obstructive swelling – often due to chronic infection, but can also be caused by allergies.
When do adults need to have their tonsils removed?
The majority of tonsillectomies are done in children. Some adults develop chronic tonsillitis, getting sore throats several times a year. Antibiotics might help to temporarily remedy this, but the pain and swelling return. The only way to stop the recurrent problem is tonsillectomy.
What are other reasons for tonsillectomy in adults?
- Chronic swelling of the tonsils can interfere with breathing, especially when sleeping. Sleep apnea can result and is often resolved with a tonsillectomy.
- Trapping of food particles or pus in the holes in the tonsils can cause bad breath.
- Cancer of the head and neck can spread to the tonsils, necessitating their removal.
How are tonsils removed?
During the procedure, general anesthesia or local anesthesia with intravenous sedation can be used. The tonsils are gently scraped off of the underlying tissues. The operation generally takes 30 to 45 minutes in total. The surgeon may also remove your adenoids, two lumps of tissue similar to the tonsils at the back of the nose. You will be watched carefully for several hours after the surgery to make sure that you are stable before you are allowed to go home.
Complications and risks of surgery in adults.
Bleeding and post-operative infection, including pneumonia, are major concerns. Vomiting, as well as pain and difficulty swallowing, can lead to dehydration. People with other health disorders, such as diabetes or heart disease, are at higher risk for any surgery as well.
What happens during recovery?
Adults need a couple of weeks to recover. The pain will start to ease after the first day of recovery with the help of medications. It is important to drink plenty of fluids and stick to a soft diet while you are recovering. Your surgeon at the Associates of Otolaryngology will give you detailed instructions to help your recovery be smooth and easy.
Do tonsils come back?
Some tonsillar tissue may be left behind but the majority of people feel much better after their tonsils have been removed with fewer sore throats.
If you are having problems with recurrent sore throats or if your tonsils are swollen and you are concerned about sleep apnea, it’s time to see a specialist. Our team at Associates in Otolaryngology in Denver are experts in the field. Contact us by phone or by filling out our online form.