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Treatment of Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids

Tonsils are two small, round pieces of tissue situated at the back of your mouth and on both sides of your throat. Adenoids are clumps of tissue in the upper part behind the nasal cavity.

Tonsils and adenoids play an essential role in fighting infection in the body. They sample viruses and bacteria that enter through the nose or mouth. Unfortunately, they can sometimes get infected and cause issues by being too large. But what causes your tonsils to become enlarged?

Read on to learn what causes your tonsils to become enlarged, the symptoms, the diagnosis, and the available treatment options.

What Causes Enlarged Tonsils In Adults?

Adults’ most common causes of enlarged tonsils or adenoids are allergies and chronic infection. Other predisposing factors include smoking and pollution.

Enlarged tonsils or adenoids are also linked with lymphoma, sinonasal malignancy, and HIV infection. According to studies, 21% of adult nasal obstruction is caused by adenoid hypertrophy. Also, tonsils and adenoids have increased high exposure to germs from the outer body, which puts them at a higher risk of infection.

Symptoms of enlarged tonsils or adenoids include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Feeling like your ears are blocked
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea (a condition that makes you stop breathing for short periods during sleep)

These symptoms can suddenly arise or develop gradually.

Diagnosis Of Enlarged Tonsils And Adenoids

Your doctor will ask you about the symptoms as well as your medical history. They will then physically examine your mouth, throat, ears, and neck.

A throat culture may assist in determining whether the infection is viral or bacterial. A throat culture is done by swabbing the back of your throat and testing the tissues for any signs of bacterial infection.

Your doctor may also use an endoscope to check the adenoids. Some other diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood test
  • X-ray
  • Polysomnography (Sleep study).

Treatment For Enlarged Tonsils And Adenoids

The following are treatment options for enlarged tonsils and adenoids:

Antibiotic Therapy

If bacteria is the cause of the infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. This is because antibiotics are only effective on bacterial infections. Treatment usually focuses on your comfort if a virus is causing inflammation.

Treatment alternatives to ease pain and inflammation include:

  • Throat lozenges
  • Acetaminophen
  • Nasal spray
  • Increased fluid intake

You should take the total dose of antibiotics as your healthcare provider prescribes, even if all the symptoms disappear entirely. If you fail to take all the medication might make the infection worse or spread to other parts of your body.

Viral infections are difficult to treat. However, some antiviral medications might work, though their effectiveness mostly depends on the severity of the infection.

Most viral infections often get better on their own. Over-the-counter medicines can help to relieve other associated symptoms, such as sore throat, headache, and fever.


If the tonsils and adenoid infections worsen or become frequent, your healthcare provider can recommend a surgical procedure.

Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is a surgery that removes chronically infected tissues. Both tonsils and adenoids are often removed at the same time, though sometimes just one is removed.

Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are outpatient procedures. The procedure is not complex unless you have a complicated medical condition or if complications crop up during surgery.

The surgery takes around 30 minutes to 1 hour, but anesthesia recovery may take several hours. You can return home on the same day of the surgery. A full recovery usually takes about 7- 14 days.

Chronic tonsillitis is a serious condition that can severely affect your quality of life. That’s why surgery is usually recommended.

Your doctor will likely recommend tonsil or adenoid removal if you have these symptoms:

  • Loud snoring that’s disturbing your partner
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Earaches
  • A build-up of fluid in the ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Sudden pause in breathing during sleep (Sleep apnea)
  • Tonsils and adenoid infection that doesn’t respond to antibiotics

Home Remedies

Some home remedies to alleviate the symptoms include:

  • Gargling warm salt water
  • Breathing in the steam from hot water
  • Using a humidifier to keep the air moist

Bottom Line

Allergies and infections are what causes your tonsils to become enlarged. Antibiotics are the commonly used medication for bacterial tonsillitis. If not untreated, bacterial infections like strep can cause serious complications.

If you need an ENT specialist for your enlarged tonsils, visit our website or contact us at (801)-893-4905.

We specialize in treating enlarged tonsils, adenoids, and other inflammatory and infectious conditions of the ear, nose, and throat. Because we focus on ENT, we have the expertise and experience to provide the best treatment.